City won’t fine for bladderball

Police clear students from Elm Street.
Police clear students from Elm Street. Photo by Colin Ross.

Contrary to a statement by Yale College Dean Mary Miller last week, the University will not be fined for the public disruption caused by bladderball. But administrators said they are investigating who planned the event, which violated a 27-year-old ban.

New Haven Police Department Chief James Lewis said that city police will not seek any fines for public safety violations or police overtime resulting from the Oct. 10 game, in which about 1,000 students passed around a multi-colored, jumbo-sized ball from Old Campus to Cross Campus. In response, Miller recanted Monday a statement she made in an e-mail last week that Yale would have to pay fines.

Police push bystanders to the sidewalk and wave through traffic.
Police push bystanders to the sidewalk and wave through traffic.

And, at least for now, the organizers will not face punishment. Lewis added that police would only have been able to fine violators arrested on the day of the event. But on the University’s part, both Miller and Council of Masters chair Jonathan Holloway said Yale officials are investigating who planned the event without University approval.

Holloway said he did not know the status of the investigation, and Miller declined to comment on the status of the investigation, saying that she could not comment on any potential actions of the Executive Committee, which handles undergraduate discipline. Still, she added that bladderball remains a banned event on campus and that she endorsed an opinion piece signed by the 24 residential college masters and deans that condemned the game and described it as a chaotic event that disrupted lives.

Bladderball shut down Elm Street traffic for about half an hour when student participants flooded the roadway. The New Haven and Yale Police Departments responded to the scene, with Yale using all on-duty officers to control the disturbance. University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, who oversees Yale security, said in an interview Monday that no Yale police went on overtime.

But Highsmith added that blocking a street is a violation of city traffic rules, an act punishable by fines. But Lewis said the police will not seek any fines from Yale officials or students.

“[The] only way that would be possible is if someone came down to the department or was arrest on the spot the day of,” Lewis said, adding that he does not believe there is a follow-up investigation by the city.

Miller wrote in an e-mail to the News on Monday she is “pleasantly surprised” that Yale has not been issued any charges.

She added that because Yale officials did not expect the bladderball event, they did not request extra officers in advance to patrol the area and thus did not need to pay for overtime.

Highsmith said Yale was lucky not to have suffered worse consequences from what she described as a dangerous event.

“With all police officers in one place, we were very fortunate not to have had something worse happen elsewhere,” she said.

The impact on Yale-New Haven relations, Miller added, is difficult to measure but is of great concern to the University. She said many New Haven residents called the Yale Police Department to complain about the chaos of bladderball. Some of the callers were drivers of the cars that were stalled on Elm Street, whiles others were parents afraid for the safety of their children, Highsmith said.

Egidio DiBenedetto, Lauren Rosenthal and Greta Stetson contributed reporting.


  • Recent Alum

    Bladderball was played annually on campus between 1954 and 1982. If it really was that bad, would the administration have waited 28 years to ban the game?

  • @Recent Alum

    If it was really that good, why were students so willing to honor the ban once it was instituted? Once it becomes something that the meats pre-game for, what do you think is going to happen?

  • BulldogROAR!

    Back in The Day, Bladderball was confined to the Old Campus–the rainier and the muddier the better. Once the ball went over the High Street Gate, that was the end. No mobbimg Elm Street or any other non-Yale property.

  • Alum

    Bladderball was a highlight of the fall 30 and 40 years ago, just behind The Game in terms of anticipated events. It was held on a home football Saturday in October and was something like a homecoming event at other schools. Every college and many student organizations fielded ‘teams.’ Of course, the Yale Daily News consistently won (as evidenced in its pages). Putting a lot of drunken undergrads out in an open space racing around involved a certain amount of bruises but it was a lot of fun. Bart Giamatti, the Yale President who banned it, was a great person but not a great university leader and there was a lot of disappointment when bladderball was banished first to a field by the Bowl and then entirely.

    President Levin and Dean Miller: bladderball is wholesome and fun – manage it, don’t ban it.

  • Alum Mom

    Wow! No wonder there is such a disconnect between Town & Gown. I live all the way across the country so it’s not my taxes paying for the New Haven police, but it seems to me that the expense of deploying officers away from other areas to Yale ought to be borne by Yale and the students who planned the event, especially because the Yale PD had plenty of notice that bladderball was making a return.

  • shhh

    shut up, mom. you’re so embarrassing.

  • Alum Mom

    That’s my job. Glad I do it so well.

  • FunattheIvies

    Really? A “chaotic event that disrupts lives”? As a western-state Yalie, I’ve set it a hundred times, but people on this coast really need to lighten up. Seems like hardly an event goes by that’s not condemned by some over-protective neurotic student organization or administrator.

    Ask any one who was at Bladderball.
    It was good fun, plain and simple. I invite Dean Miller to come out and play next time, she can see for herself!

  • please


    you have some growing up to do. The City of New Haven does not need to pay the bill for your “wholesome” fun, which involved the damage of personal property & caused significant distress to elderly pedestrians.

    We don’t need to lighten up: you need to not expect others to clean up after you & bear the burden of your “fun”.

  • Yale 2008

    The City of New Haven is a toilet bowl.

    Without Yale, this place becomes Bridgeport aka 3rd ring of Hell.

    New Haven can eat this one

  • sickandtired

    I agree 100% with Yale 2008. New Haven is a cesspool without Yale, we should be able to do whatever we want in return for putting up with the streets that are littered with pan-handling vagrants.