Masters, deans pan bladderball

A Stilesian steals her share of the bladderball.
A Stilesian steals her share of the bladderball. Photo by Colin Ross.

While students fought over scraps of a bladderball to bring their colleges eternal glory on Saturday, their masters and deans are now expressing disapproval.

The 24 deans and masters of the 12 colleges have written a joint letter, published in today’s News, condemning the game, which they say endangered the lives of students and New Haven residents and bogged down police and emergency services. They urged bladderball’s continued prohibition, saying that students had forgotten the reasons for the game’s ban 27 years ago.

“The event disrupted lives; interfered with ambulance, fire, and other emergency response efforts; damaged the relationship that all of us in the University and New Haven have worked to develop; and incurred costs to the University that are only now being tallied,” they wrote. “As some of you observed, motorists with young children were terrified by being caught in the midst of what to them seemed a dangerous riot; elderly people were shoved up against cars; students were knocked to the ground and fortunate not to be trampled.”

Yale College Dean Mary Miller echoed the views of the residential college heads in an e-mail to the News Tuesday night, though she declined to say whether administrators will pursue disciplinary or legal consequences for those involved.

“Although Bladderball itself is not named in the Undergraduate Regulations,” Miller wrote, “inciting riot on the one hand and defiance of authority (violating a Presidential ban) on the other are of course subject to the [Undergraduate Regulations].”

In the letter, the Deans and Masters admitted that they, like the estimated 1,000 students who attended the event, were initially caught up in its energy. But, they wrote, they quickly realized that bladderball is inherently unsafe because of its lack of rules and structure.

Students interviewed on the day of the game said this anarchy was what made bladderball enjoyable.

Even Ezra Stiles College Master Stephen Pitti e-mailed his college the evening after the game, expressing his “con-blad-ulations” for winning.

“Feel free to disregard any rival claims from lesser colleges,” he said in the e-mail Saturday, three days before signing the Council of Master’s letter to the News.

The administrators also wrote that Yale and New Haven police were tied up “for several hours” restoring law and order to Elm Street and Central Campus. According to multiple eye witnesses, the bladderball was popped at 4:20 p.m, and deflated by 4:30 p.m, just 30 minutes after the game began.

Yale Police Chief James Perrotti said in an e-mail Sunday that the YPD had made no preparations for the event and had to respond to the disturbance created by the game with all on-duty officers. The YPD was reinforced in its crowd-control efforts by an unidentified number of New Haven Police officers.

Bladderball was banned 27 years ago by University President A. Bartlett Giamatti ’60 after a game in which three students were hospitalized. Miller had warned last Thursday, ahead of Saturday’s game, that the ban remained in effect.

Comments

  • Mike

    “The event disrupted lives; interfered with ambulance, fire, and other emergency response efforts; damaged the relationship that all of us in the University and New Haven have worked to develop; and incurred costs to the University that are only now being tallied,” they wrote. “As some of you observed, motorists with young children were terrified by being caught in the midst of what to them seemed a dangerous riot; elderly people were shoved up against cars; students were knocked to the ground and fortunate not to be trampled.”

    Ever been to The Game?

  • Y13

    This was the only show of school spirit I’ve seen since I’ve been here. Maybe the administration should figure out a way to host the game themselves rather than squashing it completely.

  • Think about it

    2000 people chasing a single (albeit large) object around any space is a recipe for disaster–which is partly why, when bladderball was banned in 1982, no upperclassmen tried to bring it back in 1983.

  • H. Zaleski ’66

    Totally amazing that Yale has become a collection of “Casper Milktoasts” in the past few years. Bladderball was always one of the events that solidfied tremendous school spirit.

  • 0Y8

    lame as usual yale administration. The minute something fun happens, it gets banned. From most people I’ve talked to in the class of ’08, we are super jealous of all of you who actually got to play bladderball rather than just receive emails for years about it.

  • Piersondad

    As a parent of a PC’13 who was visiting, I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle of bladderball. Still, the administration has a point about the disruption of traffic and possible endangerment of pedestrians and drivers. Perhaps, the game can be confined to Old Campus with all the gates closed.

  • Yale 08

    Regarding these “costs to the University that are only now being tallied,” I hope the university will release a report summarizing what these costs are. Not to marginalize the value of the extra police support necessary for this weekend’s game, but if the costs for other support are really that high for a fairly well-natured, completely student-run event, the report may be a good potential lead for cost-cutting initiatives at Yale.

  • So…

    …had a motorist lost his marbles, and driven over someone, or had the crowd crushed somebody against a fence and paralyzed them–either one of which could have easily happened–would all of this event’s zealous supporters feel the way they do now? Would all of these parents and dingbat alums be approaching the thing so jovially? Wouldn’t the Yale bashers all be calling for Levin’s head, and blaming the school for negligence?

  • Streever

    I am surprised at the immature response from some of the smartest & best minds in our City.

    If you want to play a game of school spirit, do the grown-up thing & negotiate it with your campus ahead of time.

  • yale05wfp

    Agreed, there is a lack of all-school spirit, and this might have been a good-clean-fun activity to rally around. –had it not gotten so competitive. Competition can ruin relationships, spoil fun, and I witnessed competition on stage last year, when an ensemble pushed so hard to be the best in the world–or, just The Best…that the artistic expression of musicianship was pressed down and squelched. We need to learn to value fun and friends , not to make everything a competition. As I see it a too-competitive-spirit was the flaw of last week’s b.ball disaster.

  • Robbie

    Let Bladderball live – just do it with a little structure (confine to old campus)and safety (insure there’s some security.) Possibly even stage some bladder-ball playoffs: pit pairs colleges against each other and build up to the final. The fact that it requires virtually no athletic ability enables a student body – that(let’s be honest)for the most part lacks any – to play something, have fun and actually claim victory. Long live bladderball

  • anon

    They keep referring to the fact that the NHPD didn’t make preparations and thus had to use the entirety of the on-duty officers. That’s not the gamers’ fault. The police had heard the rumors – wouldn’t the responsible thing to do be preparing for the rumored game “just in case”?

  • student

    riiiiiiiiiight baldderball is the danger… yeah that’s a good one

    meanwhile, yale administrators are doing nothing about the rampant speeding and reckless driving all around the campus, killing and injuring yale students, staff and faculty EVERY SINGLE YEAR???

    how about cutting a few fancy faculty dinners and using the money to install some traffic calming. every other civilized campus and city does it. amherst college has light-up crosswalks. why can’t yale? it is not very expensive.

    give me a break!!!!!!!!!! Let’s just wait for MORE PEOPLE TO DIE while YALE DOes NOTHING ABOUT SAFETY (except calling for an end to bladderball)!

  • Whoever is in Stiles and posted Master Pitti’s email in here– not cool.

  • 1Y0

    Streever, don’t you have some traffic to calm?

  • Yale ’08

    “I am surprised at the immature response from some of the smartest & best minds in our City.

    If you want to play a game of school spirit, do the grown-up thing & negotiate it with your campus ahead of time.”

    Dude, stop being such a cowed killjoy. I for one am extremely envious of the recent Bladderball participants and wished that our class would have had the balls to bring it back.
    BTW, when there are rumors circulating campus-wide, in emails, and in the press, of an imminent Bladderball game, the YPD and Yale’s administrators have no excuse to be unprepared.

  • Former Stilesian

    Quite contrary, I think good reporting led to the exposure of some double standards at work. Master Pitti should have not signed that petition. I can only echo the sentiments of all the alums who never actually got to play some bball. Since when Yale became a place where fun goes to die?

  • Recent Alum

    How many years did the tradition of playing Bladderball last before it eventually got banned in 1982? It seems that if it was really that bad, it would have been banned much earlier, no?

  • Curious

    Yes, how far back does the Yale tradition of Bladderball go?

  • Alum ’75

    Bladderball was played annually while I attended Yale, a fall festival of organized mayhem, when the assembled masses congregated in the Old Campus, and then someone threw the ball into the scrum. The goal was twofold: for each “team” (whatever that meant, and it included all res. colleges, and most organizations on campus) to try to “capture” the ball, which was nearly impossible, and to secondarily get the ball thrown over the high street fence and into the N.H. streets. Campus police did their best to keep the action confined to the Old Campus, but usually failed.

    That was an era at Yale where Bladderball was viewed as a great way to blow off steam, in comparison with blowing up buildings and having confrontations with the National Guard on the Green. It was also a time when Masters sponsored booze laden happy hours every friday afternoon.

    Those days are gone however, replaced with the “in loco parentis” role that colleges now play with their students.

    But there should be an opportunity for something similar to what we enjoyed…maybe move the game to the athletic fields at the Yale Bowl, with some generally agreed upon set of rules, but actually, it was never that much fun and it tore the hell out of the old campus grounds every fall.