Alcohol guidelines should truly serve safety

Last fall, Yale’s new tailgate rules — a more moderate echo of Harvard’s restrictions on the last Game held in Cambridge — seemed less a realistic attempt to address concerns about excessive drinking than a public relations move, and the report from Yale’s Committee on Alcohol Policy takes this formula to an absurd extreme. While we are glad to see the administration looking for ways to support nonalcoholic recreation on campus, the new alcohol regulations outlined in the report seem unlikely to curb student drinking or to boost student safety.

Obviously, the establishment of additional Old Campus social space can only benefit students. We heartily encourage the University to pursue the late-night campus movies, coffee bars and athletics classes outlined in the report; many of these options are long overdue. But most of the committee’s recommendations regarding Yale’s drinking population seem both naive and unnecessary.

We find it telling that committee members admitted they did not focus on the practical implementation of some of their proposals. Frankly, we cannot imagine how they expect to enforce regulations that would ban odorless, tasteless grain alcohol from campus, or mandate the presence of registered bartenders. And the recommendation that alcohol be cut off one hour before a party’s end is even less realistic — it assumes that partygoers would wait to sober up for that hour rather than moving on to find alcohol elsewhere.

In keeping with its broader perspective, the committee also wrote of educational initiatives that would detail the risks of alcohol use. While we cannot object to safety-conscious programs of this nature, the administration cannot believe they will fundamentally change students’ attitudes toward alcohol. Besides, we remain unconvinced that Yale students have proven unable to handle their booze.

As we said in the fall, the University’s focus on encouraging safe drinking rather than prosecuting underage drinkers seems to have kept students safe. Moves toward greater monitoring of alcohol use — the implicit if not explicit function of the proposed Old Campus resident fellows — would push far more students to drink off campus, distancing them from campus safety and medical resources. This would be a step backward, not forward, for student safety.

At its core, the committee’s stated desire to curb drinking during Bulldog Days and Camp Yale seems to reflect a fear that discovery of alcohol within Yale’s social scene will disenchant freshmen or prospective students. But we believe it difficult for anyone to avoid having fun during either time, regardless of their stance on temperance. And we would be much more hesitant to enter an environment where restrictions on alcohol use force students to drink in isolation, resulting in tragic incidents such as the one last April in which a 19-year-old Kenyon student lost his life.

It is Yale’s tolerance of reasonably controlled alcohol use — in conjunction with existing counseling and medical resources — that makes the campus a safe drinking environment. We appreciate the administration’s desire to diversify campus social activities, but we ask that they not jeopardize that genuine safety merely to make the University appear safer.

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