Alcohol report incites little change

A year after Yale’s Committee on Alcohol Policy released its report, the committee’s recommendations have had little effect on how Elis socialize or on their attitudes toward drinking, many students said.

The report, which was released last February, did not recommend major changes to the University’s policies on student alcohol consumption and instead proposed several steps — including mandating new rules for registering campus parties and housing residential fellows on Old Campus — meant to reinforce Yale’s “safety-first” philosophy. Administrators said the University’s focus on preventing unsafe student drinking has made an impact, but most students said they think the atmosphere toward alcohol consumption on campus remains essentially the same. A law forbidding those under 21 from possessing alcohol — which went into effect in October — has also done little to change Yalies’ drinking habits, students said.

A student takes a shot of alcohol. Despite a University report released last year and a recent state law forbidding students under 21 from having alcohol, students have not reported a change in their habits.
Michael Blank
A student takes a shot of alcohol. Despite a University report released last year and a recent state law forbidding students under 21 from having alcohol, students have not reported a change in their habits.

The changes to undergraduate regulations that resulted from the committee’s report are relatively minor, but residential college masters have been more consistent in interpreting and articulating alcohol policies, Council of Masters chair Judith Krauss said. She said she believes there have been fewer incidents of dangerous over-consumption of alcohol than there were in the past.

“I think in Silliman, and I’m going to guess in many of the other colleges, we have fewer of what I’d call the really large, really anonymous parties that tend to lead to people getting either sick from alcohol or engaging in property destruction,” Krauss said. “It seems to me that the main import of the report has been that people have settled into smaller gatherings.”

The residential colleges now all use a standard party-registration form, as opposed to using 12 different forms with different requirements, Krauss said.

Sabrina Poon ’07, a freshman counselor in Davenport College, said she thinks the number of incidents of heavy drinking in Welch Hall is somewhat lower than when she was a freshman. The decline in the amount of binge drinking is due in part to the greater stress that freshmen counselors and residential college masters and deans have placed on encouraging students to seek help if they have too much to drink, she said.

“More of what has happened is that we have emphasized being responsible more and definitely keeping things under control and keeping things to a reasonable level, which wasn’t emphasized as much my freshman year,” Poon said. “Even at the beginning of the year, thinking back to my freshman year, we had a lot more incidents.”

Poon told her freshmen at the beginning of the year that they should feel safe coming to her in the case of an emergency or if they had concerns relating to alcohol, she said, but she has not brought up the issue with her advisees since then. Krauss said masters’ instructions to freshmen counselors on how to talk to freshmen about alcohol have not changed significantly since the report was released.

But some students said they think the new regulations have done little to change student behavior. Erin Frey ’08 said students drink just as much as they used to, but it simply takes more effort to find ways to do so.

“The amount of drinking hasn’t changed — just the amount of steps we have to go through to have a party is annoying,” she said. “[It] hasn’t changed how people drink or don’t drink.”

Following the committee’s recommendation, the University decided this year to begin housing residential fellows — similar to those who live in the residential colleges — in freshmen dorms. There are currently fellows living in both Durfee Hall and Vanderbilt Hall, Ezra Stiles College freshmen counselor Hrvoje Ostric ’07 said. He said he thinks the renewed University focus on ensuring students’ safety is smart policy and is effective in promoting student health, but he said he thinks neither the report nor the new law has had a noticeable effect on how much students drink.

“I don’t think there is more [drinking], nor do I think that people covertly drink, which was one of the main fears everyone had — that students would go and get drunk in their rooms because everything else is off limits,” he said. “Do [students] necessarily drink less? I’m not sure … I don’t see any huge difference one way or the other.”

Because Lawrance Hall, where Ezra Stiles freshmen live, has no fellows, Ostric said, he has met the two fellows but has not spent much time working with them. The residential fellows’ role is to be an informal adviser and to provide freshmen with a welcoming Old Campus environment, he said.

But Samuel Gottstein ’10, who lives in Vanderbilt, said he has had little interaction with the Vanderbilt fellow. He said he has only been to the fellow’s suite once, to attend a meeting with Yale College Dean Peter Salovey and officials from Undergraduate Career Services.

“In this particular case, the residential fellow is not in my entryway, so I really have had little if any contact with the fellow,” Gottstein said. “As far as limiting the amount of alcohol consumption, at least in my entryway, it doesn’t do very much at all. There is no reason for her to go to my entryway.”

Students in freshmen dorms consume alcohol frequently, although the drinking is mostly social, Gottstein said. He said he knows of one student in Vanderbilt who had to be taken to University Health Services and another who was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital after excessive alcohol consumption.

Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said she does not have any data on the number of students who have been hospitalized because of alcohol this year, but she thinks the University’s emphasis students’ safety and the substance-abuse counseling offered at UHS are having a positive effect.

“We’re still taking students to [UHS], which tells us that one of our expectations is being met,” she said. “We would like to see no one in the hospital … [but] people are feeling freer to call for help.”

The committee’s proposed recommendations also included a requirement that a certified bartender be hired to serve any alcoholic beverages other than beer and wine at campus parties and that party hosts stop serving alcohol an hour before the parties’ scheduled end times.

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