Yalies can be grateful for the campuswide philosophy that safety, rather than punishment, should guide the enforcement of Yale regulations governing alcohol use by minors on campus — at least for now.
Students said they generally agree that administrators do not attempt to crack down on underage drinking, although they do encourage students to behave responsibly when it comes to alcohol. Administrators said safety is the primary goal when it comes to drinking on campus, but a recent review of alcohol policy on campus emphasized a need to change the campus culture of alcohol consumption.
Officially, Yale does not sanction alcohol use by minors. The Undergraduate Regulations prohibit drinking by those under 21 and state that disciplinary action will be taken against those who break the rules or serve alcohol to underage students.
But the Undergraduate Regulations explicitly encourage students to take themselves or their friends to University Health Services — with no risk of disciplinary action — if they are concerned that their health is in danger because of excessive alcohol consumption. Students may be admitted to UHS for observation, although students who are disoriented or uncommunicative are sent to Yale-New Haven Hospital, UHS Director Paul Genecin said. If a student is able to leave UHS by the following morning, residential college deans are not notified that he or she spent the night at the health center.
“Students being seen at the health plan indicates that they are doing something right,” Branford College Dean Thomas McDow said. “If friends are sending their friends to the health plan because they are worried about them, that’s what’s supposed to happen.”
Yale Police Department officers and residential college administrators may break up on-campus parties that are especially disruptive or that are not registered with the appropriate Master’s Office, but room parties remain a major part of campus social life. If a police report is filed about a student who was under the influence of alcohol, it is automatically sent to the Executive Committee, which handles issues of discipline, but students are not punished for drunkenness, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said. If students commit a crime, such as vandalism, while drunk, they may be punished by ExComm, Trachtenberg said.
Yale College Council President Steven Syverud ’06 said he thinks the University’s policy strikes a good balance between discouraging drinking and encouraging healthy behavior.
“I think Yale does a good job of emphasizing keeping students safe,” Syverud said. “I think it’s an enlightened policy and a realistic policy.”
The Class of 2010 will be greeted by some new policies enacted after a committee of administrators, residential college masters and students reviewed the University’s alcohol policy last year. Few of the changes involve new regulations, although the committee recommended that grain alcohol be banned from campus and that trained bartenders be required to served mixed drinks at parties. Instead, the bulk of the committee’s proposals involve changes to the culture of drinking on campus.
The committee’s report recommended that University resources be provided to create alternative social events — such as athletics and dance classes, a coffee shop with live music or a campus movie theater — for students who do not want to drink. Specifically targeting freshmen, who may be less comfortable hanging out with friends who are drinking even if they do not drink themselves, the committee recommended the creation of a lounge or other social space on Old Campus, similar to the butteries currently in place in residential colleges. In addition, the committee recommended that residential fellows be housed on Old Campus to advise freshmen and organize activities, akin to the fellows who already live in each of the colleges.
Trachtenberg said she thinks that the University’s policies have worked well in the past, but that alcohol education could be improved.
“There is always more that one can do,” she said.