The tailgate at this year’s Harvard-Yale Game in Boston on Saturday – marked by the introduction of stricter policies on tailgating and partying – witnessed significantly fewer alcohol-related arrests and hospital visits than the last time Harvard hosted The Game two years ago.
Two students were removed from the tailgate because of alcohol poisoning, and only one of those was transferred to a local hospital for treatment, Harvard’s Director of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services Ryan Travia said. He said 30 students were hospitalized because of alcohol in 2004.
In addition, Travia said, fewer than 10 students were forced to leave the tailgate for underage drinking, smuggling in alcohol or carrying fake ID cards. He said fears that Harvard’s new tailgating rules would simply encourage students to drink before showing up to the tailgate proved to be unfounded.
“The general sentiment among many students and some staff was that these new rules were going to push the behaviors underground and increase the amount of pre-gaming,” Travia said. “And frankly we didn’t see it. Our data did not support those types of assertions.”
The new rules stipulated that no alcohol or liquids of any kind could be brought into the tailgate and that all tailgates had to shut down at halftime. Drinks were sold to students who could prove with two forms of identification that they were over 21. In addition, they instructed that no visibly intoxicated individuals would be allowed to enter.
Drake said he thinks the hard work of student groups from both schools made the tailgate a success. Only six students had to be treated at the tailgate’s health tent, compared with 60 in 2004, he said.
“I thought we ran a really good tailgate, especially with the constraints we were in with the rules and the rain,” Drake said. “If you look at the statistics, it was much safer. People were more responsible, and nobody behaved like an idiot … And it didn’t seem like we sacrificed a lot of fun to get that.”
The tailgate, which Drake said attracted 10,000 people, was moved to a parking lot adjacent to McCurdy Track because the regular tailgating space at Ohiri Field was under three inches of standing water.
Travia said he thinks clear communication of the new rules — which were intended to restrict high-risk behavior — was critical in making the tailgate run smoothly. Travia’s office worked with some of Harvard’s House Committees to provide funds for campus-wide parties on Friday night, which he said reduced the incentive for heavy drinking on Saturday morning.
“There were some people who were having their fair share to drink,” Travia said. “As with all policies, there is a way around it. The people who were addressed by the police or the administration were people who drew attention to themselves.”
Travia said a total of ten students were treated for acute alcohol intoxication between Thursday night and Sunday morning — a number lower than that of an average weekend.
But while many students agreed that this year’s tailgate was safe and uneventful, some said they think the new rules detracted from the fun atmosphere of past tailgates.
Police officers at the entrance to the tailgate and security event staff at the stadium gates patted down students to ensure that they were not bringing in liquids. Joel Nezianya ’09 — who had a bottle of water confiscated while entering the tailgate — said he thinks Harvard’s new regulations were an overreaction to what happened two years ago.
“I thought it was a little bit ridiculous,” he said. “I felt like it was meant to be airport security…It was clearly an unopened bottle of water. They made no attempt to distinguish that from anything else.”
Representatives from the Harvard University Police Department could not be reached for comment.
Tess Dearing ’09, a member of the Berkeley College Council, said she thinks people had a good time at the Berkeley tailgate, but the cramped space in the parking lot made for a less social atmosphere.
“It’s kind of hard to have a lot of person-to-person interaction when it’s so crowded you can’t move,” she said. “I understand that this was a backup location for the tailgate, but I think maybe people would have had a little more fun if Harvard had done a better job of arranging things.”
Miscommunication between administrators and the Boston police led to confusion with regard to the sale of alcoholic beverages to students over 21. The Boston police shut down the drink sales at 1 p.m., instead of at halftime as had been planned, Harvard Campus Life Fellow John Drake said. BPD officers did not warn bartenders or those selling wristbands about the early shutdown, with the result that some students ended up paying for drink tickets they could not redeem.
Drake said BPD did not provide an explanation for the move, and the mix-up was the result of a “miscommunication” between the police and Harvard officials. The Harvard College Dean’s Office offered refunds to students who visited the office today, Drake said.