Admins review tailgate rules

Photo by Charlie Croom.

The University will carry out a comprehensive review of tailgating policies in response to the Nov. 19 incident at the Harvard-Yale tailgate when a U-Haul truck hit three people, killing one.

Administrators said the review, announced the same day as the incident, will focus on the logistical issues of tailgating at the Yale Bowl, including the use of U-Hauls and traffic flow. Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Lindner, who will lead the review in collaboration with the Yale College Dean’s Office and Yale Athletics, said there is not yet a timeline for the review’s completion.

“We’ve just witnessed a terrible loss, and we need to do everything in our power to put in place the sort of guidelines that can prevent such a tragedy from ever taking place again,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said.

The Nov. 19 accident occurred around 9:39 a.m. as a U-Haul driven by Brendan Ross ’13 swerved and accelerated as it entered the tailgating area outside the Yale Bowl, striking three women before crashing into a smaller U-Haul. Nancy Barry, a 30-year-old woman from Salem, Mass., was pronounced dead at 10:16 a.m.

In addition to Yale Athletics and the Dean’s Office, the Council of Masters, the Yale Police Department and Yale Security will all be involved in the review, University Spokesman Tom Conroy said. Miller added in a Saturday email to the Yale community that the cities of New Haven and West Haven, as well as their police and fire departments, will also be consulted.

Conroy said since this year’s football season is over, there is plenty of time to conduct a thorough review before the next season.

The University already has “extensive” rules for the use of trucks at tailgates, Conroy said, such as that students cannot ride in the cargo area of trucks and that if the trucks carry alcohol, the driver must be at least 21 years old. Also, any beer kegs carried in trucks must be registered with the Athletics Department, and drivers of trucks must give their driver’s licenses and keys to the police and pass a sobriety test before they can leave the tailgate in their vehicles.

Lindner said she will examine the tailgating policies of other universities as part of the review process. Harvard has banned box trucks from its tailgate area in recent years, said Jeff Neal, a Harvard spokesman. A 2004 Harvard Crimson article said that U-Hauls were banned at Harvard because they damaged the field in the tailgate area and students were in danger of falling when they danced on top of them during the tailgates.

Yale administrators interviewed did not comment on which of the University’s tailgating rules might be subject to change.

Administrators have debated changes to tailgating rules three times in the past six years, sparking controversy among students. Yale strengthened regulations in 2005, which forbade tailgates from continuing past the end of halftime, prohibited drinking games and paraphernalia and banned students from climbing on vehicles during the festivities.

In 2007, the Council of Masters proposed a ban on U-Hauls, citing safety and health concerns. Former Council of Masters chair Judith Krauss told the News at the time that “the potential for injury is high” with U-Hauls. But the proposal was ultimately rejected, partly because students argued that U-Hauls were necessary to transport food, grills and other supplies to the tailgate.

This September, a committee of administrators in Yale College and the Athletics Department again tightened tailgate regulations. The new rules required that students wear wristbands indicating whether or not they are of legal drinking age, made all tailgates register ahead of time and banned glass bottles and charcoal grills.

Following the announcement, students spoke out against the new rules, and administrators ultimately reversed a new policy that would have forbidden alcohol from being served at residential college tailgates, though the other changes remained.

The New Haven Police Department has launched an investigation into the Nov. 19 crash, which is expected to last “weeks,” according to department spokesman David Hartman.


  • eli1143770312

    I don’t know the cause of the accident at this year’s pre-Game tailgate. I’m glad at least that drunk driving does not appear to have been involved. But as a regular reader of the YDN over the years, I do know that the amount of student focus on this tailgate and the annual efforts of the Yale and Harvard administrators to rein it in is strange to the point of bizarre. Administrators should focus on ways to make the game the main attraction for students. Perhaps set aside more and better seats for them or end student sections altogether and let them mix it up with the rest of the fans. At least at Harvard (which now has stadium lights), maybe start the game a bit later than the noon start that has become the new norm, allowing people time to both enjoy a tailgate and go to the game. If you got a group together with the task of maximizing student attendance within the Stadium/Bowl, good ideas will inevitably bubble up. And while I don’t favor any de-emphasis on The Game, if students attended the rest of the games on the schedule and got to enjoy tailgates before those games too, the pressure to plan a blow-out for the last game might be lessened. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to upgrade the football programs, providing the type of community focus all of the Ivies once enjoyed, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards anytime soon.

    While it would be nice if a carrot-only approach of refocusing student enthusiasm on the game would suffice to puncture the current fetish on the tailgate, it probably won’t. I would guess that banning U-Haul-type trucks is almost a given. To the extent that tailgate parties continue to be organized by colleges/houses and/or student organizations, I’d suggest putting an end to the student ghetto approach where all of the students are put in one area. Exposing students and alumni to each other might ruffle a few alumni feathers and seem like an unwelcome intrusion by students, but it also might have a moderating effect and maybe even bring about some unanticipated positive interactions. And then maybe Yale and Harvard administrators can get out of the nanny business and leave it to the students to make their own good (and some bad) decisions.

  • Branford73

    The tailgate “problem” exists at just about all colleges which have a football program. It certainly is an annual rite of university administration sturm and drang at Duke. The root of the problem is the legal drinking age of 21, making a dichotomy between students who can legally drink and those who cannot. For liability reasons (hopefully not philosophical) the universities must put up an effort to control underage drinking. It appears that the wrist banding or whatever is being used is a satisfactory solution.

    And since alcohol appears to have nothing to do with this accident, it would be a shame for the university to impose further alcohol restrictions in the areas around the bowl on game days. It is certainly appropriate to review the tailgate procedures to see if any further safety measures are appropriate. From the sketchy descriptions given it would seem senseless window dressing to ban U-Hauls because of this incident. However, administrations of all types like to be seen to have “done something about it”, whatever the “it” might happen to be. I would find it refreshing if Yale, after the review is done, makes a statement that the procedures already in place were adequate and the accident had nothing to do with the tailgate procedures.

    Doing away with student seating sections is frankly a ridiculous idea. Fellowship among the students at games, particularly The Game, is a valuable experience for many. Mixing them up with the rest of the fans takes away from that experience and would take away an incentive for them to attend the game instead of staying back at the tailgate. If there was sparse attendance this year at The Game it was likely caused by the competitive imbalance this year going into it, something that will likely change from year to year, at least I hope so. I expected Yale to get spanked, and they did.

  • anonymouz

    i stand by my comment on an earlier article that yale ought to ban both tailgates and fraternities. it adds nothing constructive to the academic or social environment here. see the recent new york times article where the reporter observed a female undergraduate passed out in a fetal position on the steps of a fraternity house, with several fraternity brothers walking by without helping her. we are all very accomplished individuals, and can certainly find more constructive ways to spend our free time.

    • yalie13

      That’s just incredibly ignorant. Isolated acts of irresponsibility or inconsideration by some individuals who happen to be in fraternities cannot be used to indict all fraternities. And as hard I try, I can’t find any rational argument for the claim that fraternities and tailgates provide nothing constructive socially and should therefore be banned.

      Nobody is making you join a fraternity or attend a tailgate. If you think you can find a more constructive way to spend your time, feel free. Don’t impose your preferences on others.