Chaffetz: The Yale Teetotaler Workgroup

How long will Yale ignore the harmful habits that have been plaguing its campus for decades? How many freshman counselor emergencies and late-night noise complaints will it take before we face the reality? The time has come to ban alcohol on campus once and for all. The Yale Teetotaler Workgroup, a committee comprised entirely of students and faculty who do not drink, has found conclusive evidence that an alcohol-free campus would be a better campus for all.

We all know the damaging effects of liquor on drinkers. Studies show that non-drinkers too suffer from drinking in their surroundings. Students who drink stay up about three hours later every weekend night than students who don’t, and are up to 20 times louder during these hours than their somnolent peers. Non-drinkers are frequently kept awake later than they desire by the loud noises drinkers make at night. Worse, they can be influenced to take on a nocturnal lifestyle of their own. The ubiquity of sleep-deprivation on college campuses is a well-known fact, and Yale only favors it by permitting liquor on campus. And let’s not even mention the negative effects of alcohol on gender relations on our campus. So although individuals may feel entitled to choose whether or not to drink, the space we share must be kept dry for the community’s sake.

We are not insensitive to the ramifications of such a policy. Drinking on campus has not spared our valued faculty and staff. Alcoholic beverages are served at most events the University organizes for them. If a liquor ban is enforced, faculty and staff should be offered lecture programs on the health hazards of drinking and free “mocktail” mixing classes. Sparkling grape and apple juice should be served at all official functions. For the students, faculty and staff who cannot restrain themselves and must consume liquor, the University should build designated drinking areas where their noisy bacchanals will not disturb the rest of the community. In the basement of Commons and of each residential college, a six-foot by eight-foot cell with concrete walls thick enough to isolate the noise should be enough for drinkers to indulge in their self-destruction without affecting others. Of course, for the campus to be truly dry, Yale must also evict all alcohol-serving businesses that rent University property. This will have the added benefit of broadening our efforts to the New Haven community and discouraging our neighbors from the scourge of alcoholism.

The positive influence of a dry campus policy at Yale could grow to an international scale and raise standards around the globe as well as right here in New Haven. We are a world-class institution admired for our open culture and belief in moral autonomy. By banning alcohol on our campus, we would show that our spirit of tolerance does encumber our commitment to health — that indeed we honor this commitment in its most exclusionary applications. This message will help world leaders understand that in an open society individuals argue as much as they want and about what they want, but obey. It will also help attract those desirable students and scholars who share this notion. Already, Yale counts a large number of non-drinkers, so attracting more of us will help build a stronger, more unified community. It will also result in a healthier community by discouraging drinkers from enrolling or teaching at Yale. Perhaps most promisingly, Yale would become more appealing to the non-drinkers who avoid the company of those who drink. Persons with such a clear sense of priorities are likely to be leaders and certainly welcome on our campus.

These are the measures necessary for a healthier and happier campus, measures already in practice on many campuses across the country. Brigham Young, Quinnipiac and Mississippi State universities offer only a few examples of the benefits that a campus-wide alcohol ban provides. The Yale administration should enforce the same policy in the spirit of maintaining mutual respect and safety in our community.

Simon Chaffetz is a junior in Morse College and coordinates business development for the News.

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