I wonder what would happen if someone unfamiliar with American football were asked to speculate on what a “Student Tailgate Village” might be. Perhaps it’s one of those weird team-building corporate retreats for new employees. Or a fun, hip place where people can study outside, like an academic Disneyland. Or even that weird Swedish toy room at Ikea where kids can frolic while their parents shop.
Alas, it is an oddly conceived drinking pen for Yale undergraduates. Come Saturday, many of us will encounter the latest in a set of new alcohol-related reforms: the Student Tailgate Village.
The Village — intended to provide a safer environment for students to tailgate — is a step in the wrong direction, for football games as well as for Yale’s larger social culture.
Now, some of the new tailgate rules are productive and necessary, such as the ban on vehicles. However, the drinking-related changes — the most important from a student’s perspective — could usher in a range of larger and assuredly dangerous problems.
The Village’s strict 21-to-drink enforcement (which exists, truly, nowhere else in New Haven) and kickoff closing time will, in practice, accomplish the opposite of Yale’s intentions, pushing drinking into dark, unregulated corners instead of fostering a safe environment for a collegiate inevitability.
To be sure, students of all ages will be drinking Saturday morning. If we are being honest with ourselves, with the state of Yale’s football team over the last few generations, the tailgate — in a Village or elsewhere — is in fact much more of a tradition than the game itself. Unless Yale Police (or whoever is at the gate of the Village) is willing to accept that — out of sheer coincidence — there are a ton of kids from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Texas and Rhode Island who just happen to be visiting a friend that morning and do not have a Yale ID also saying they’re 21, most of us will not receive a wristband.
So, with tailgates out of the question, how will this drinking happen? If we follow the rationale that led to the creation of the Village, one would think that students will just choose to forgo this choice or, at worst, craftily sneak a beer or two into the tailgate. Any administrator with the smallest insight into Yale student ingenuity, though, has good reason to be skeptical that this will actually happen. Instead, it seems much more likely that students will be heavily drinking in their suites in the early morning and chugging Jim Beam in Coke bottles on the ride over.
Yale administrators should not look to the Village — with all its features and activities — as the way to redefine tailgate culture. The most substantial change the Village brings is the addition of a vibrant pre-tailgate necessity, whose drinking practices — heavy, to last the tailgate, and quick, to compensate for its shortened schedule — will be exactly the antithesis of what Yale has striven to foster.
As a larger issue, the Village fits into a series of administrative changes that amount to a confusing shift in a previously pretty good overall stance on undergraduate drinking.
On one level, there is actually a lot to a name. I have felt ridiculous just having to write “Tailgate Village” so many times. In real terms, it has become either a punch line for students or an awkward demonstration that the administration is too distant to actually have a productive dialogue with students.
On another level, the Village is just another mixed signal to undergraduates on how Yale looks at drinking. At times, the University is (to its immense credit) quite progressive, allowing social life to exist responsibly without the cumbersome reach of resident advisors or overzealous campus police. But there is a growing trend of selective severity in disciplining the same behavior in different forums.
There is a lack of clarity on how Yale treats drinking, and this spit-and-glue method is creating the very circumstances that lead certain student behavior — the same behavior the University is most concerned about — to happen at a greater frequency. Despite its cheery veneer, this is the real nature of the Student Tailgate Village.
Harry Graver is a junior in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.