Does Yale have a drinking problem?

Officials have noticed a spike in alcohol abuse this year but say they don’t know why, and policies are unlikely to change.
Officials have noticed a spike in alcohol abuse this year but say they don’t know why, and policies are unlikely to change. Photo by Colin Ross.

The past year has seen a record number of alcohol-related hospitalizations, as well as a police crackdown on underage purchases at nearby liquor stores. The alarming trend peaked tragically on Halloween weekend with the death of Branford College sophomore Andre Narcisse ’12 — a death that, 14 weeks later, was shown to be caused by multiple drug toxicity, which may include alcohol.

Administrators have sent concerned e-mails, and freshman counselors have been instructed to take special care. But while Yale has revised its regulations in response to rashes of binge drinking in the recent past, for now, administrators said they will forgo policy changes in favor of continued discussion of solutions to alcohol abuse on campus.

“It’s a question that transcends Andre’s passing,” said Calhoun College Master Jonathan Holloway, who chairs the Council of Masters. The health of the entire student body, he added, is affected by alcohol abuse.

“The policies are there. What else can we do?” Holloway said.

Yale officials, including University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, who is in charge of campus security, said binge drinking on campus, or at least reports of it, have surged this academic year. During the weekend of the Safety Dance last October, for example, eight students were hospitalized for alcohol-related reasons, a number that Silliman College Master Judith Krauss said she believed was higher than that of previous years.

Highsmith said concerned administrators “don’t have any answers,” and Yale College Dean Mary Miller said administrators continue to study practices and initiatives that might reduce harm.

“As Dean and as a former master, I am of course concerned about the lives of each and every student,” Miller said in an e-mail Thursday.

Still, administrators say they are always mindful of alcohol abuse on campus, and the recent spate does not mean that alcohol policy will change in the near future.

“It’s not a topic that only comes up when something bad happens,” said Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, who heads up the Alcohol and Drug Advisory Committee, a group of faculty members and students that meets frequently to discuss substance abuse issues on campus and advises Miller.

Yale’s current alcohol policy, Gentry added, is “pretty good, but it could be better.”

But Holloway said the appropriate policies already exist, adding that at a certain point, there is a loss of interest at the administrative level.

“What else can we, other than turning into a police state?” Holloway said. “That’s not the answer.”


But this spike in alcohol abuse is not unprecedented, and administrators do not need to look very far back into the past to find another uptick. During the 2005-’06 academic year, a Committee on Alcohol Policy made up of administrators, undergraduates and college masters and deans convened to review the University’s alcohol policies. The ensuing report, released in February 2006, demonstrated a desire to curb alcohol consumption on campus and to create an environment where students did not feel compelled to drink.

While the current policy makes alcohol-related infractions subject to disciplinary action by University officials, calling for emergency help does not necessarily lead to consequences. Gentry said this policy allows students to feel comfortable bringing drunk friends to Yale University Health Services, and is safer than just letting students “sleep it off in their rooms.”

Some alcohol regulations that arose from the 2006 committee’s report — including a campuswide grain alcohol ban and the stipulation that alcohol at registered parties may only be served by certified bartenders — are still in place today.

But the 2006 report also recommended housing residential fellows on Old Campus, scheduling more Friday classes to cut down on Thursday-night partying and possibly creating a new, alcohol-free social space for freshmen. Not all of the recommendations were enacted, and Provost Peter Salovey said last Monday that the challenges have not disappeared.

“There are additional ideas in the report that could and probably should receive further consideration,” said Salovey, who was dean of Yale College from 2004 to fall 2008. “The nature of risky drinking changes somewhat from cohort to cohort, and so student involvement in addressing it is critical.”

Betty Trachtenberg, the dean of student affairs during the 2005-’06 school year, when the report was released, said that while alcohol incidents were up that year, the rise in incidents was due in part to students feeling more comfortable calling for help if a friend was in need.

“Through our educational programs, they were aware of what was happening with their friends, and they were reporting it more,” she said in an interview last week. “If there was one thing that we did right, that was it.”


Yale is not the only university seeing an uptick in alcohol abuse, administrators said. Yale Police Chief James A. Perrotti said his counterparts at other schools have told him they are experiencing similar problems. Highsmith and Perrotti said they have seen an increase in abuse throughout the University — not limited to freshmen, or even to Yale.

“It’s absolutely not limited to freshmen,” Perrotti said. “We’ve had plenty of incidents with seniors and even graduate students acting irresponsibly.”

But Highsmith and Perrotti also said they could not explain the rise in incidents.

And police are not actively seeking out alcohol infractions, Perrotti said. Rather, officers are encountering more offenders as they perform their regular security duties. In particular, a police initiative designed to improve the quality of life in certain areas on and near campus found more alcohol violations committed by Yale students when officers cracked down on panhandling and disorderly behavior.

This past September, Yale Police charged only two minors with illegally consuming liquor. No minors were charged in October until Halloween weekend, when the initiative kicked off and five minors were charged with consuming liquor. In November, the department charged nine minors with consuming liquor.


  • Insatiable

    The Pong culture is but a small aspect of the Culture of Appetite which we have created in every area of our CONSUMEr [sic] oriented society.

    Why is there surprise at binge drinking? We are currently paying with an enormous economic hang-over for 20 years of binge spending?

    The fundamental problem with insatiability is EMPTINESS.


  • teacher

    OK Yale adminstrators, say these words very slowly:

    d r u g a d d i c t i o n
    a l c o h o l i c
    t r e a t m e n t
    a d d i c t i o n s e r v i c e s

  • 2010

    I think the main reason for the uptick in drinkers sent to the hospital is that administrators have begun to regularly send “sober” people to the hospital, simply because they were 19-20 at the time of consumption. It’s ridiculous, but I’ve witnessed it multiple times, and when the 19-20 year old gets to the hospital, nothing happens – the hospital staff simply gave the students OJ and cookies, and let them go.

    The YDN’s reporting might also be a cause for increased drinking on campus.

  • Yale mom

    I hear that students (minors) drink in their dorms. Who is selling them the alcohol? Is someone watching over the dorm activities? Concerned mom.

  • please enforce

    Why does Yale have rules and laws?

    If Administrators dont enforce the laws already set in place, why have laws?

    Yale will continue to see increaseD amounts of tragedy if its’ Administrators continue to turn a blind eye!

    And for all parents out there not aware…this is what everyone in the Yale community does…from the faculty, to the Masters, to Deans, to administrators and to the YPD… THEY TURN A BLIND EYE.

  • saybrook997

    I can’t imagine college without learning how to drink (and how to get drunk). I learned gin gets you too sick, so I went to wine (don’t mix ‘em), but it does too, so I thought stay with beer. It has the same effect.

    The problem is getting drunk before going out with the force-feeding beer/shot routine. Shots taught me the alcohol poisoning feel–worse than sick or spinning. The obvious problem to someone as smart as me is that you don’t know the effect of shots until after you stop.

    A part of the excess is that the legal age was raised from 18 to 21 because of drunk driving. The U.S. Congress,
    trying to show it is not worthless by “solving” some problem,
    just raised the legal drinking age (and made federal pork contingent on the states do the same). Drunk driving still is said to figure in half of the 44,000 auto deaths each year. Unless the number of 20-year-olds in auto deaths has declined, the drinking age should be lowered to 20. That will require a push at the federal level by 18-21 voters, who were most of Obama/Democrats’ margin in the last election. The states would then follow partly because they want the taxes and the beer/alcohol company campaign money.

    Congress does not work based on facts and good policy. As Mark Twain said, “One indolent person is called on the dole, two are a congress, and three are a law firm.”

  • Current Yalie

    Blame it on the “That’s Why I Chose Yale” video – after seeing that, I just had to drink to get it out of my head…

    On a slightly more serious note, I haven’t really noticed an uptick in alcohol abuse during my years here. Rather, I think what has increased dramatically is drug abuse… There is substantially more drug use now than there was 3 years ago.

  • saybrook997

    Concerned Mom (#4),

    I share your concern, but no one is watching the kids in their dorm rooms, particularly after freshman year. They are not kids, even if not always adults. And I see adults get almost fall down drunk at bars (and usually drive away).

    The students also should have been drinking at home at about 17 or 18 with their parents’ there, at least enough to know the feeling and effects, even to the point of a bit sick feeling. Parents teach them about most everything else.

  • Len Bias

    To say that Andre’s death represents the peak of an increase in alcohol-related hospitalizations is the height of journalistic irresponsibility. Hate to break it to you guys–alcohol didn’t cause his death. Why don’t you do some actual investigative reporting and find out what drugs actually killed him?

  • anonymous

    Oh we have policies, what else can we do?
    Um, how about community service, counseling, probation, etc etc. ENFORCEMENT? Just because you wrote something on paper, doesn’t mean a thing. You have to make sure the students know it, and when they step over the line, you have to DO SOMETHING.

  • Yale Parent

    End Age Discrimination
    These students are adults. They vote, serve in the military, and men must register for the draft. How is it constitutional to deny them then right to consume a legal product? This underground illegal drinking is much worse now than in the 70’s when the drinking age was 18.

  • kevin symcox

    guilty as charged.

  • y11

    opening paragraph? seriously? “may include alcohol”?

    that’s a pretty absurd stretch.

  • BR

    @ Yale mom

    1. It’s not that hard to get alcohol. Older kids buy alcohol and throw parties or they buy it for the under 21s. Most of us don’t see any particular reason not to – I don’t give to the freshmen that are under 18, but I have no particular attachment to the 21 year old law.

    2. What do you suggest by ‘watching over’? That we have some sort of RA system? That the dean and college go through every entryway to enforce non-drinking? I see this as silly – clearly, individuals should be allowed to drink, particularly the over 21s. There’s no meaningful way to differitnate, particularly since most parties aren’t held on old campus.

    @please enforce

    3. Safety before discipline. That’s constantly enforced.

  • please enforce

    Dear Yale mom,

    Underage drinking is just one of the things going on in the dorms.

    Their refrigerators are stocked with beer and hard alcohol, there is drugs, and not to mention the nude partys.

    I have spoken with both administrators and YPD…but with no success of anything changing.

    I have asked YPD to make random inspections of rooms, but that seems to be a blasphemy….

    They all turn a blind eye!!! And the effect of all this irresponsibility will reveal its ugly sad face in the future.

    Do you have any suggestions? If you do..I urge to call Mrs. Miller, or Mr Ou, or Gentry, or anyone else you can…I have.

  • Reality Check

    Okay, adults, did you drink and do drugs in college? Of course you did. Do you think the administrators of your university knew? Of course they did. Do you think you can manage the process better than Yale is doing now or as your college administrators did? If so tell us, because it is pretty insoluable to be perfect in this arena given the puritanical and hypocritical scrim we must all maintain around the areas of sex, drugs and alcohol. Are you recommending a police state–bed checks at 10:15p every night and sniffer dogs patrolling the dorms?

    How do you let people grow up and experience things in a relatively safe environment, especially if they weren’t able to do it at home? I’m working on the presumption that everyone at some point will come in contact with drugs, sex and alcohol. In this modern world of competitive perfect parenting, we parents have spent our children’s entire lives shielding them from nasty scary things, but I would argue we do them a disservice since we can’t continue to shield them forever.

    To me this binge mentality amongst young people today is the biggest reason to educate your children while they’re still home. Life these days seems to be a total free-for-all: Consume it! Charge it! Screw it!

    How will our children learn the right degree of self-regulation for themselves without practice? Do you really think that you can shelter kids entirely from the world of nastiness but when they turn 21, they will be miraculously ready for it?

    It really is so bizarre how we handle alcohol and sex in this country. As far as I can tell, college is really the only place for people to figure this stuff out since we don’t have a legitimate public dialogue/education about the transition to adulthood relative to relationships, sex, drugs and alcohol. Colleges have been forced to be the forum for this transition and it is impossibly complex to solve for each individual. W

    We as a culture are so bound up in protecting the children that we don’t recognize the reality that is coming at them no matter what. Shouldn’t we as parents be looking to give them skills rather than the placebo of “just say no”?

  • Been There

    I was a yale student when the drinking age was 18. Res. colleges sponsored happy hours with vodka based punch drinks. People got drunk. You could go down Chapel or Broadway to one of several liquor stores and buy what you wanted. Generally speaking, I think the administration’s view was that giving kids booze might keep them off drugs, but that didn’t work either. What I do seem to think is different now is that the intensity of the drinking has increased, and that may have something to do with the the fact that for at least half the students, they can’t drink legally.
    I’m not so sure there really is a huge epidemic of binge drinking at Yale, more so than other schools. Drinking alcohol is a learning curve, and “social” drinking tends to evolve over the years (or decades) for most of us. I never saw a freshman “social drinking.” People drank to get drunk, and there is a learning curve. Most survive it, and every now and then someone doesn’t.

  • ’08

    Perhaps rethinking the **ridiculous** national drinking age of 21 could help solve this problem. Right now, 18-year-olds (who incidentally are considered responsible enough to drive, smoke, serve in the military, and vote) experiencing “freedom” for the first time head straight for a 30-pack of Keystone Light and handle of Dubra-brand vodka. With little or no experience drinking (save for that acquired underhandedly during high school), their goal is simple: get messed up.

    Imagine a Yale where Masters Teas and similar Yale-sponsored events could include nice wine and local microbrews for ALL students, not just 21-and-over seniors. A Yale where students arrive at the school having already learned how to consume alcohol **responsibly** in their homes prior to college. A Yale where students see wine, beer, and spirits as something to complement a meal and be enjoyed in moderation rather than as “party juice” that makes potential hook-up partners at Toads more attractive. That will never happen so long as we continue telling highly intelligent, resourceful college students, “No, you can’t have any.”

    College students are going to drink. If you think there is any way to stop that, through laws or other means, you’re living in a fantasy world (or Liberty University). I would suggest that students who are capable of earning admission to Yale and then succeeding in such a rigorous/competitive environment have every right to a drink at the end of the day. Unfortunately, today’s culture discourages such above-the-table, responsible alcohol consumption and instead pushes students to binge drink out of the eyes of authority.

  • agree with 9 & 13

    Classic irresponsible journalism on the part of the YDN. Why not write about the real problem? Namely: hard drug abuse. It’s a small portion of the campus, but it’s sizable enough that tragedy occurs, in contrast with the recent uptick in alcohol abuse which, at least so far, has lead to more people needing a brief stint of care.

  • please enforce

    Saybrook 997,

    You are obviously not a parent! I do not know any parent that will allow their children to drink “at least enough to know the feeling and effects, even to the point of a bit sick feeling”

    What kind of person are you? Oh wait, a liberal one? Right?

    Well fortunately, there are still some of us parents that have conservative and old fashioned values.

    I do agree with you to the extent of letting them drink a glass of wine or a beer, but thats as far as I go.

    Then again I myself am not an alcoholic and know there are consequenses to excess and extremes…that I did teach my child.

    And as for your comment”They are not kids, even if not always adults”…in my book age does not determine being an adult!!! These so-called adults…by your liberal standards..cant pay for anything on their own…they still need their mommy’s and daddy’s!

    Until they can pay for their shelter, food, and every other expense…they are children!!

    At least this mommy’s money will not go towards illegal activities.

    Shame on all you parents out there who are allowing your children to purchase liqour with YOUR money.

  • Suzanne D. Fields, MD

    I invite students/administrators/health educators who are concerned about the health and safety of Yale students to check out the Red Watch Band program, a movement that educates student volunteers on the signs and symptoms of acute alcohol intoxication and provides these students with the tools to know when and how to call for medical help. The mission of the program is also to promote a culture of students watching out for one another. Fifty schools have already signed user agreements. For more information, see

    Suzanne D. Fields, MD
    Professor of Clinical Medicine at SUNY Stony Brook

  • wandering aengus

    Dear Concerned Parents –
    At what point are your children responsible for their own behavior. why should yale have to incur extra costs to make sure your children make good decisions. perhaps, if they had learned how to be responsible and drink cautiously before leaving home this would not happen. i love the current generation of parents who think nothing is ever their child’s fault. wonderful generation of leaders you are producing!

  • appauled

    Reality Check

    Your comment is so full of wisdom… “How will our children learn the right degree of self-regulation for themselves without practice? Do you really think that you can shelter kids entirely from the world of nastiness but when they turn 21, they will be miraculously ready for it?”………NOT!

    I would like you to tell Mr. Narcisse’s parents what you just told us! What would they think? How would they feel?

    If we as parents can save at least one life… our enforced rules and laws will be worth it!

    Shame on you Mr. Reality Check.

  • come on

    please talk about the actual substances involved. don’t link this to alcohol just because you wanted to write a lovely multi-part feature on alcohol use.

  • Linda C. Degutis, DrPH

    To correct some misstatements about alcoholimpaired driving – approximately 40% of fatal crashes are alcohol related. Raising the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) to 21 resulted in a decrease in alcohol-related crash fatalities in people under the age of 21. Impaired driving is not the only issue. Other consequences such as violence, sexual assault, unintended sex, alcohol overdose, impacts on academic performance, are all issues associated with excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking.
    There are several reasons that a MLDA of 21 makes sense: The brain continues to mature until the early 20s, and excessive alcohol use can negatively impact it.
    When 18 year olds can purchase alcohol, younger adolescents are more able to obtain alcohol, increasing the risk for them.
    The MLDA of 21 has been effective in decreasing the rate of some of the negative consequences of excessive alcohol consumption in young people. Just because people can vote, or join the military at age 18 does not mean that they have the maturity or experience to handle alcohol without harming themselves.
    Data demonstrate that the earlier age at which one starts to drink alcohol on a regular basis, especially under the age of 21, the more risk there is for developing long-term alcohol problems – abuse, dependence, and negative consequences.
    Alcohol use does not only affect the drinker, but the drinker’s friends and roommates, and can have a negative impact on the environment in which they live. Think about sharing a suite or living space with someone who is often drunk.
    It is likely that many college students who drink excessively have already established some of these patterns prior to attending college. You may be surprised to learn that the average age at which children in Connecticut who consume alcohol start to drink on a regular basis is about age 12 years. These are frequently children who come from affluent families, and have ready access to alcohol in the home or from older siblings.

    The alcohol policy workgroup that revised Yale’s alcohol policies in 2006 focused not on increasing policing of students, but on ways to decrease harm due to alcohol use, and to discourage excessive alcohol consumption. Encouraging students to call for help when a roommate or friend is intoxicated is important as part of this strategy. Following up the initial intervention with further discussions with counselors is also important, and is a part of the Yale policy.
    So, drinking on campus is a difficult problem, but one where prevention and intervention can be effective, both to decrease alcohol consumption, and to decrease alcohol-related harm. As Provost Salovey stated, there are recommendations from the alcohol policy review group that have not been implemented and perhaps these need to be revisited to determine if they might be effective.

  • ’10

    Agreed in part with the 2010 poster above.

    An increase in the reporting of issues could be the result of any variety of reasons, the most salient being the increase in enforcement rather than a significant change in the culture of Yale’s students within one academic year. This is not to reject the notion that Yalies do tend to drink excessively, but to undermine the idea that this year happened to be any sort of “surge” in irresponsible behaviors.

    Anecdotal evidence usually provides a weak argument for causal relations, but they can at minimum prove the existence of changes in policy. In speaking with local authorities, multiple have noted an increase in priority this year in tackling underage drinking and “vigilance for those who need medical assistance”. At minimum, this would result in an increase of reported incidents and hospitalizations even if the drinking culture remained steady.

    Considering that binge drinking has been such a consistent and prominent issue on this campus, any calls for simple solutions are necessarily short-sighted and falls heavily towards self interest. Students need to take a more responsible stance, while parents need a more realistic perspective. The Yale administration’s policies as it stands tries to balance the risks of college drinking with the benefits it has towards the student life.

  • ’10 again

    Policies implemented should take into account the expected effects into the realistic campus rather than an idealized one. Those that argue for stricter enforcements should take into account the way regulation and enforcement affect the incentives of young adults entering into a new, unconstrained environment gushing with social opportunities – they don’t. As one can note across this entire country, no matter what the policy is at any institution of higher education (excluding the strongly religious affiliated), the extremely inertial reality is that college students will drink, and quite often drink to excess. So instead of arguing that the administration is “turning a blind eye” towards these activities, realize that the decisions made are likely based on a highly calculated cost benefit analysis of to enforce or not.

    The most basic argument, as has been repeatedly argued by students, is that the administration takes this reality into consideration and, instead of trying to change the incentives of the students, try to minimize the dangers of students’ behaviors. In light of the recent tragedy, it is hard for many to accept the incident and must place blame on someone, which, in this case, points the finger to the university. But the truth is that the incident is a freak incident that is less of a “culmination” of escalating problems than anyone is willing to believe (and less to do with alcohol than suggested by the article, but since when is the YDN a flagship of responsible reporting?). The university’s policies have been to minimize the medical risk more than any other university to our knowledge, yet it is a risk nonetheless. Parents, how do we know that we can further lower the risk of health issues if we notch up enforcement, only to see the ever thirsty student be forced to take hide their drinking, to not report health issues, to seek out alternatives in New Haven rather than the safety of on campus. I do not believe that it will be safer, and I think the administration think likewise.

  • ’10 again

    However, there are many other incentives to consider for the administration. A relatively pleasant one is Yale’s selling point of being a fun and familial atmosphere and so much of that Yale pride we so cherish. I am guilty of deciding my university on my alcohol spurred college visits, and I have yet to find a day where I regret any bit of it. Other much more perverse incentives to consider for the university include the increased cost of enforcement, the increased need to improve security in surrounding New Haven neighborhoods, and also the tarnished products the university provides if many of its students have drinking citations. These are subjects which may be far more taboo but help ensure that the policy remains to contain drinking within the campus and attempt to minimize health risks.

    Thus, the goal should be trying to change the incentives for the students to drink to excess, to improve upon campaigns to decrease binge drinking, and to provide better learning opportunities for ways to deal with peer pressure. In many ways Yale has been attempting to do this with the freshman orientation and the support of freshmen counselors, but these areas could be improved upon. In this way, the environment can introduce the least risky way of introducing responsibility to these young adults, to slowly ease them into the issue of alcohol that they will inevitably face at some point in life. Instead of pushing the problem of developing drinking responsibility to before college or after college, Yale can (and has) embraced this maturing stage of its students. Should we improve upon this process, we will be able to strike the perfect balance of a vibrant, active social atmosphere and a safe environment for the young adults (and we’re already damn close.)

  • Yale watcher

    Funny, last week in the New Yorker they had a whole article on “The Sociology of Drinking” and guess who they quoted and relied on for info….? Yale University- per se is not at fault here, how we drink, why and with who are the main problem.
    Reading Malcom’s article, you soon come to the realization that it’s not the drinking really, its how we do it. Those Italians in New Haven who consume copious amounts of wine everyday are a good example….

  • recent yale alum

    To the parents who are so outraged about alcohol use on campus:

    Don’t pass the buck onto campus administrators. Your children should have been taught about alcohol and responsibility prior to coming to Yale. It was *your* job to do so. It is neither the obligation nor the right of the Yale administration to police undergraduates as if they are children. Don’t want your kids to have problems due to alcohol or drug use? Then educate them with the appropriate information and raise them to be responsible, ethical human beings.

  • @ Current Yalie (#7)

    I highly doubt that “There is substantially more drug use now than there was 3 years ago.” I think it is much more likely that the rate of drug use has remained constant, while its visibility to you has increased. Freshmen generally don’t do as many drugs and those who do are much more secretive about it. Upperclassmen are much more open about drug use, especially as they move off-campus.

  • Proud Yalie

    Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it a drinking *problem”. I’m glad to see Yale is rejecting the neoprohibitionist rhetoric of groups like MADD and other helicopter parents, by drinking the rum rather than the kool-aid.

  • BR10
  • get real

    If a student can’t sneak a six pack into his dorm ,maybe he will pick up a half pint of 151 rum and tuck it into his/her waistband. As good things come in small packages, and so that explains tiny cellophane baggies. I suppose one has to watch yourself / check yourself if momma says an uncle or pappy has a drinking problem and history – A private family issue

  • saybrook997

    @20 By Please Enforce

    In response to your question:

    “Saybrook 997,
    What kind of person are you? Oh wait, a liberal one? Right?”

    [No, I’m traditional. There is very little in our history as traditional as drinking alcohol, even when colonists had to distill it themselves. Learning how to drink alcohol (without alcohol poisoning by guzzling beer or drinking shots) is not the same as experimenting with other drugs or sex. Relax, students who learn to drink without extreme excess may avoid the big mistakes (and occasional death) from too much alcohol, and not try or use the most dangerous drugs, and college is not a continuous orgy. Nude parties are mostly myth, although a few of those liberal rebels have gone to them–very few.]

    “I do agree with you to the extent of letting them drink a glass of wine or a beer, but thats as far as I go. Then again I myself am not an alcoholic and know there are consequenses to excess and extremes…that I did teach my child.”

    [I also am not an alcoholic, but I have felt the delayed effects of too much drinking and of shots–it only took once. I would like to see other students avoid that experience, which could have been much worse with a couple more shots. They will not learn by drinking one beer or a glass of wine, but can safely learn the consequenses of excess and extremes by drinking more than one drink without binging.]

    “And as for your comment”They are not kids, even if not always adults”…in my book age does not determine being an adult!!! These so-called adults…by your liberal standards..cant pay for anything on their own…they still need their mommy’s and daddy’s!”

    [I know they are your babies always, but they don’t see it that way always, and you also want them to grow up. Read comment #17 and 18.]

  • Body is an amusement park

    Does Yale have a drinking problem ?
    No way , not a drop, even with a thousand bars located on and about campus
    Does the Administration have a drinking problem ? Maybe, between the union and endowment concerned the precious fluid always runs down and soils the ole Abercrombie

  • Morse 2013

    I am a freshman who doesn’t drink alcohol and doesn’t see the appeal, so I may not be able to determine why people drink. However, my impression is that there are two main reasons: the majority of students have no respect for the drinking age of 21 law, and alcohol is generally considered to be a significant part of what makes up a party. Though not among my suitemates or the people I usually am with, there does exist a general culture at Yale in which people get drunk on weekends. For many people, alcohol and fun are closely linked. I think our goal should really be to change the culture to be one in which alcohol abuse is generally looked down upon by students, instead of being considered socially acceptable. How to do this, I do not know, but it is worth thinking about, rather than simply making students less afraid to get help, because while this policy is good for safety, it alone will get us no closer to discouraging alcohol abuse, and in fact, might even encourage it (it’s easy to get help, and there’s very little consequence if I’m right about Yale’s alcohol policies, which I have no real experience with). Maybe try harder to have alcohol-free parties for those who would rather not drink? Maybe stricter enforcement about alcohol abuse? Roommates of students who would rather not be attracting the administration’s and police’s attention to their rooms would probably get annoyed if their roommate abused alcohol a lot and attracted administration attention. This in turn could lead to a disincentive for students to drink irresponsibly. There are many sides to this issue, which all have their own benefits and costs, and while I think Yale’s policy of not punishing those who seek help makes sense, the Yale administration should not be so quick to denounce any other ideas as obviously wrong because they might go against their dogma.

  • @ Dr. Degutis

    “Just because people can vote, or join the military at age 18 does not mean that they have the maturity or experience to handle alcohol without harming themselves.”

    Note that age 18, American males not only have the option of joining the military of their own volition, but also are required to sign up for the selective service. Do 18-year-olds have “the maturity or experience” to handle war?

    As an American male, it’s always seemed absurd to me that the same legislators, medical professionals, and moral crusaders who say “You’re not ready to drink, it’s hazardous to your health, etc.” seemingly neglect to consider the fact that we live in a country that can demand military service from 18-21 year old men. So I’m old enough to handle an M-16 and face enemies of the state, but I’m not ready to handle a Bud Light? Give me a break. Which is more hazardous to my health, an IED or some chardonnay?

    Also, the line of reasoning behind this constantly looks to the lowest common denominator. I’m sick of laws being passed that aim to protect/direct those who are incapable of watching out for themselves while at the same time taking freedom and choice away from those of us who are capable of doing things responsibly. Moreover, those who have trouble acting their age are the same ones who are just going to ignore and find a way around the laws anyway.

    “You may be surprised to learn that the average age at which children in Connecticut who consume alcohol start to drink on a regular basis is about age 12 years.”

    Not really surprising. What that tells me is that attempting to regulate this age by using legislation is ineffective. You’re telling me that even with a federal drinking age set at 21, the average age at which kids start drinking is almost a decade earlier. Hm. Seems like maybe the current policy isn’t exactly proving to be a deterrent. Perhaps it’s time to recognize the fact that unless you’re going to completely prohibit it for everyone (and I point you to historical evidence of how that turned out the last time they tried it), trying to stop all teens from drinking using laws isn’t going to happen.

  • 2010

    It’s amazing that the ignorant parents on this board were able to produce intelligent kids.

  • AA

    Yale has a drinking problem. Face it! Admit it! It is the first step of AA.

  • Old Blue ’73

    To Dr. Degutis:
    Excessive drinking is not so great for the 21+ set either. I prefer Dr. McCardle’s approach in, which advocates reduction of the legal drinking age with mandatory education and licensing. Prohibition of drinking for those under 21 is not working and its unintended consequence is to encourage binge drinking, the so-called “pre-loading” and excessive drinking in private behind closed doors. Colleges which have cracked down on on-campus drinking have seen increases in off-campus problems, including increases in drinking and driving.

  • ’13

    Please enforce and Yalemom:

    You two have been continually championing “enforcing” laws, but ignore those of us who point out, again and again, that enforcing drinking laws will NOT reduce underage drinking–it will simply make students do it clandestinely.

    A friend of mine got alcohol poisoning last weekend. He drank in his room, with alcohol acquired in secret–there’s no way any kind of Yale enforcement could have stopped him. When he began to vomit continually, friends called his freshman counselor, who took him to the Department of University Health. His life was literally saved. Had the students who called the freshman counselor been afraid of being punished (they too were drunk), they would not have called, and my friend very likely would have died. Similar situations occur on campus all the time. Not one of those could have been prevented by enforcement of drinking laws. Every one of them could have been fatal were it not for Yale’s policies.

    Your foolishness and ignorance astounds me. Like 2010 said, HOW did you manage to get students into Yale?

  • 2011

    I think we drink so much because there is too much pressure on us. I think if the academy took itself a little less seriously, if we took ourselves a little less seriously, our lives would be a lot happier, with and without alcohol. There are ways of valuing education, learning, and excellence without entering into the competitive “this paper will make or break my entire life” mindset we live in every day. Like, professors and students alike could talk a little less about grades, and a little more about ideas. We could all make realistic schedules for ourselves rather than overscheduling to the max. I’ve had too many friends say things like “I’m only happy when I’m drunk” and (completely seriously) “it’s not alcoholism until you graduate college.” Another scary (and in my mind linked) sentence I’ve heard more than once: “what am I worth if I’m not the best at everything?” It terrifies me that these sentiments, which seem to be somewhat widespread, are guiding the actions of so many of my peers.

    One objection to what I’ve written so far might be that at many colleges with less pressure, there is still widespread alcohol abuse. This is definitely true, and alcohol/drug abuse all the world over isn’t caused by one precise thing. But I feel like on our campus specifically, alcohol abuse is often a response to being unhappy when not drunk. And our particular brand of unhappiness has a lot to do with stress and the completely absurd expectations of universal perfection that we set for ourselves and others. We build so many walls around ourselves, we worry so much about how we will be seen, that for many students the only way to let go of their inhibitions and stress is to drink and drink copiously. Teaching students how to take care of their friends seems like a good plan, and I also like that our policies don’t punish those who ask for help. But it strikes me that another way we could get at aspects of this problem is by looking at the reasons people drink excessively, and where those reasons are products of our campus culture, trying to address them systemically. What if we focused on ways to help students feel a little bit happier in their own skin sober? I know, I know, perfectionism is what got all of us here. But we’re not big fish anymore (and isn’t it kind of nice? to be in a place chock full of such bright, challenging people?), and I worry that the need to be is tearing too many of us apart.


  • anon

    It’s amazing that some Yale students’ posts turn so nasty on worried parents who may not be university or public policy wonks, but have a good faith interest in how their children are doing at a place they are paying 50,000 a year for, right?

    Great posts from Suzanne Fields MD about the redband program. Part of the problem is that when the culture both in society and in colleges relies so heavily on alcohol fueled parties and recreation that there AREN’T many alternatives that don’t seem like temperance league religious abstinence programs. Which is sad.

    Colleges and kids as smart as many of the above posters appear to believe they are ;) should be able to come up with something better, right?

    Nothing wrong with drinking of course, except everything the DrPH points out briefly and smartly above.

    And the whole point of view that “I know when I or my friends have had enough and the others are ignorant tools” has been shown many many times over (in experiments and real life, duh) not to be accurate, right? Just sayin…

    Yale has no corner on the market of drinking but shares in a society wide explosion in dangerous use and abuse of alcohol and drugs. Any casual reader of shoreline newspapers and will know this to be true…except as applied to all of us smarter and safer folks within the ivory towers here… (irony)

    Solutions not obvious, but I like the tone of the redband program which focuses on reducing danger and death, not drinking per se.

  • Pk

    Please remember to honor Andre

  • god

    # 39: THANK YOU. Hi parents. Alcohol is not ruining us. Wait 20 years, and I think you’ll see that Yale has more to offer than alcohol.

  • Yale 2011

    To the concerned parents on the board: I appreciate your sentiments, and thank you for posting them and for caring what happens to Yalies in general. I’m surprised at the antipathy you’ve received on this thread.

    I personally do not think Yale has a drinking problem. Most of the comments– both on this article and in everyday conversation– seem to treat “do you drink?” as a yes or no answer. The perception seems to be either that you drink = DKE on the weekends, wasted out of your mind, sloppy facebook pictures omglol, etc; or that you don’t drink = will not touch a drop and probably don’t go out. However, I and MOST of my friends here fall somewhere in between those two extremes. I have no moral objection to drinking, and I’ll have one or two drinks on a weekend evening or if I go out to eat. I’ve been drunk once in my life, and never intend to be again. Most of my friends fall into the same category; drinking is casual, social, and easily abandoned. Debates always focus on how few Yalies “don’t drink”, but we need to get over the mindset that all drinking is detrimental.

    I’m still 20, and therefore breaking the law. But my drinking has never ever been a “problem.” Enforcement would accomplish very little.

  • the major drunkards:

    the major drunkards are freshmen, athletes, and really slutty/disgusting people. past freshman yr, i think most yalies learn how to make drinking a part of their life without making it an obsession.

  • hard

    real story: increasingly pervasive drug abuse. and i’m not talking about pot either.

  • anon

    to # 49:

    yes ;(

  • down with the 411

    As a mother who has sent 3 children off to college, (2 graduated and hopefully the 3rd will do so this May) I certainly am not naive enough to think that everyone is drinking milk and eating cookies over the weekend. As parents, you can only preach so much. (and keep the local police blotter from the college’s hometown on your list of computer favorites) The university itself can only do so much. I think the primary focus should be on friends. If you know that a friend of yours has grossly overindulged, check on them. Make sure that they’re ok. Certainly not everyone who went out for the night is totally trashed. Alcohol/drug poisoning is very real. Wouldn’t you feel terrible to know the friend that you helped to get home from a night of drinking, whom you never checked on, aspirated on their own vomit? It’s happened. Be a pal.

  • not a drinking problem

    Yale consistently teaches us that alcohol is nothing more than a drug. Its place in normal dining is completely ignored. It’s always portrayed as “a drug” to be “used”.

    I grew up with people who drink wine and spirits every day. Sometimes they drink alone. It never makes them drunk or even tipsy. Here they are called “problem drinkers”. They would NEVER “use” alcohol except for cleaning or as an ingredient for extracting essences and liqueurs.

    Yale’s drug-abuse mentality supports our learning about alcohol through binge drinking and beer pong.

    This is not a drinking problem. It’s an attitude problem perpetuated by an administration who think fine wines are for alcoholics, civet coffee for caffeine junkies, and Belgian chocolate just for the sugar highs.

    Cut their salaries and put the money into the dining halls where fine wine, civet coffee and Belgian chocolate will be appreciated! Barbarians don’t need high salaries, just a trough of stomach-filling swill and a dry stable to sleep in.

  • To Appauled [sic]

    “Appauled” writes to me:
    “Your comment is so full of wisdom… “How will our children learn the right degree of self-regulation for themselves without practice? Do you really think that you can shelter kids entirely from the world of nastiness but when they turn 21, they will be miraculously ready for it?”………NOT!

    I would like you to tell Mr. Narcisse’s parents what you just told us! What would they think? How would they feel?

    If we as parents can save at least one life… our enforced rules and laws will be worth it!

    Shame on you Mr. Reality Check.

    Mr. Appauled,
    The article was about the overall drinking problem not Mr. Narcisse’s tragic circumstances. I stand by my comment that we parents have to teach our children how to drink–it is a smaller overall risk than that resulting from secretive behavior. No one can do the enforcement needed for zero drinking. It isn’t possible. Therefore, I’m looking for the next best option–training for personal responsibility. I don’t know Mr. Narcisse’s situation and I feel terribly sorry for his family. I’m not blaming them or anyone–surely it was a tragic accident and we should give his family our heartfelt condolences and sympathy.

    My outlook won’t solve for every single person–but since the current laws cannot be sufficiently enforced, they didn’t help him either. A police state and jail cells would be the only way to keep young people “safe” from the dangers of alcohol and drugs–even then, lots of stuff gets through in jails, so even that wouldn’t work. At any rate, people don’t send their children to school for this sort of lock-down–it isn’t possible. You want your children to be isolated from the bad stuff–put them on a desert island and let the malaria and sand flies take care of them. We have to accept risk and then mitigate is as best we can. That is the approach I’m taking.

    So, I don’t accept your shaming, but I do invite you to tell me how on earth you think we as a society can do better in this particular arena, because I don’t see it.

    I’ve been a teenager and I have teenagers. This is a topic that is of great importance to me. I split my teen years between the US and countries where it was fine for a 16 year-old to be in a bar having a drink. I can tell you nothing was more effectively in moderating alcoholic intake than peer disdain at someone who couldn’t handle themselves and drank too much.
    I’m hard pressed to see that 21 is the magic age of reason when it comes to booze. Everyone’s got to learn at some point and the older people get, the less likelihood there is someone in loco parentis around to help. The only alternative is an outright ban and we all know how that turned out.

    In all your shaming, I don’t hear you coming up with anything better, but, we’re all ears if you holding back..
    –Reality Check

  • un huh

    Just when I think that Yale is uber-liberal/progressive, I read #47’s Neanderthal comment,”the major drunkards are freshmen, athletes, and really slutty/disgusting people.” He must be dead on though because I’ve never seen a drunk at a Country Club. Yea, right!

  • 2013

    Does Yale have a drinking problem? Not any more than any other college has a “drinking problem.” College students drink, and many college students binge drink on the weekends. This is not a “problem” specific to Yale or some sort of pervasive flaw in Yale’s social culture.

    In fact, I believe Yale handles the issue of student drinking extremely well. I have friends who go to UCs and I have heard stories where they or people they knew were too afraid of punishment to get their friends medical attention for drinking. I’m sure Yale’s policy of treating alcohol as a health, not a disciplinary issue has saved lives.

    Most of the students here will in all likelihood become successful, well-adjusted people after college, whether or not they drank and partied during their time at Yale. I believe the best way to handle student drinking is realistically and practically, (like Yale already does) not with a sense of inflated moral outrage.

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