LEE: Blame ourselves for Safety Dance

Just in case midterms have got you living in Bass without any social interaction, let me break it to you now: Safety Dance is no more. When I woke up and saw the headline ‘Safety dance canceled’ blazed across the News’ webpage during the wee hours of yesterday morning, I thought either my lack of sleep had me seeing things or it was just a joke piece that found its way online. Even when I realized it was true, I couldn’t help but feel ambivalent. Who cares? There are other things to do on campus. However, as comments on the article poured in throughout the day, I realized that ambivalence had no place here.

There was much talk about the University’s incoherent drinking policies, potential disciplinary actions against binging and even personal attacks on Master Krauss. But most of the comments were missing the point: the end of Safety Dance is just another episode to remind Yale that all is not well when it comes to drinking and binging. Whether you’re a binger, responsible drinker or as dry as Tim Tebow, eight serious hospitalizations and a fully packed Yale Health in one night is a problem. Treating it as anything else is ignorant denial.

Most student conversations about alcohol at Yale seem to always end up blaming administrators for not doing enough to cultivate a better drinking culture on campus. But Safety Dance wouldn’t be any safer were the administration to pursue a strictly non-disciplinary policy for alcohol-related incidents. Indeed, some University programs aimed at affecting student behavior are laughable, as is the case with the CCE program, which does more to cripple Froyo World’s reputation than anything else. Yale can only do so much to encourage students to make the best decisions for themselves, which makes SAAC’s decision to cancel Safety Dance that much more noble.

Master Krauss made clear yesterday that the decision was one made out of concerns for both liability and student safety. I doubt this is a political statement. Krauss is a nurse by training, making it both her professional responsibility and duty to care for others. It’s apparent what effects she hopes ending Safety Dance will have. Skeptics will respond by arguing that canceling a single dance isn’t going to stop binge drinking. However, there is also no denying that large social events such as Safety, Spring Fling and even The Game encourage a culture of irresponsible behavior unlike that of a regular weekend night out. Whether or not anyone would like to admit it, the fact of the matter is that with the absence of Safety Dance, Yale will have one less night of widespread intoxication every year.

Of course, the solution is not to go ahead and remove every large social event on campus fueled by the naïve hope that binge drinking will suddenly disappear. What we need to do first is fully accept that us overachieving, overcommitted, and over-intoxicated Yalies have a problem. Perhaps the difficulty of doing this lies in the fact that we’re just not used to being told something is wrong. We’re the “successful” ones who made it here. We’re reminded every day of our strengths and places we’ll be able to go, and we’re fed a false illusion daily that everything is fine and dandy because we’re at Yale. As a campus, we need to sober up.

Let’s lay off on blaming the administration. After all, they’re doing it for a reason: Yalies don’t know how to drink, and it’s harming not only the students, but the University’s image as a leader as well. Let’s stop accepting that certain nights will lead to inevitable blackouts. Let’s stop thinking that alcohol is the essential social lubricant for a good time. These attitudes are what led to the end of Safety Dance, and it’s these attitudes that need to go.

Ike Lee is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. Contact him at ike.lee@yale.edu.


  • yale_senior

    This is a terrible op-ed, as short sighted as it is illogical. First, the author basically concedes his point when he points out that other events such as Spring Fling and The Game promote a similar culture, yet certainly doesn’t advocate eliminating those events. So what’s the point? That Judith Krauss is well-meaning? In my experience working with her on intra-college events, I have never met a master that placed so little trust in her students to be responsible. Her whole mentality is one that undergraduates at Yale are “kids” who need to be reined-in, and she I feel is of the growing breed that views an experience at Yale should consist of three things: sleeping, taking classes, and studying for classes (eat optional give how expensive quality food is). The bonding, friendship, and indeed social lessons that is one of Yale’s strongest features is entirely lost in that equation.

    Secondly, this problem of drinking will *not* be solved by anything the Yale Administration will ever do. It is obviously a national culture, and in all cultures people will go overboard. But the idea that we should cancel an event that hundreds of people love because a handful of people are recklessly and harm *themselves*, is totally illogical.

    Finally, there is the hypocrisy of the whole system. Ike, I hope you one day have a chance to see a fellows dinner at your Master’s house, as your professors get blasted on quality Yale-purchased alcohol. Or when every high-level administrator at Yale hold’s their Phi Beta banquet and those 4.0, but twenty-year old juniors, get drunk with Mary Miller and, indeed, Judith Krauss.

    The essential point is that the issue her is not drinking safety, a large percentage of the professors, even those who deal with this issue, enjoy getting drunk. The issue is covering their behinds form imaginary lawsuits , and the fact that no one ever got promoted for saying “there are cultural problems we can’t solve.” What happens though is that hundreds of people lose a night of fun and bonding, and in the end, friendship.

    • cincinnatus

      You can bet that any faculty members drinking at a fellows dinner are not ending up hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.

      Furthermore, why should Judith Krauss trust students to be responsible when eight(!) students in a night end up hospitalized because of their lack of responsibility? There is wide gap between those who “enjoy getting drunk” and those who drink to the point of blacking out, getting sick, and ending up in the back of an ambulance. I’m guessing that Krauss knows the difference between the two — and clearly too many students across the country do not.

      • yale_senior

        Your very argument proves my point: “why should Judith Krauss trust students to be responsible when eight(!) students in a night end up hospitalized because of their lack of responsibility?”

        We are talking about a major party attended by hundreds of students. So 8 students probably represents 1% or 2% of the attendees in a culture lets remember where the average college student drinks 20.8 drinks per month http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/YouthIssues/1101836683.html

        However, in your view the other hundreds of students (who are obviously represented by these 8) deserve to not enjoy an event that for many is the highlight of their fall semester, because of the actions of a small minority in a culture that is predisposed to drinking whether the party is held or not.

        • cincinnatus

          If you are of legal age, feel free to go and have a few drinks responsibly in the venue of your choice. It isn’t Judith Krauss’s responsibility to provide venues where students can get blotto.

          • xfxjuice

            She doesn’t. Safety Dance is a dry event. Alcohol has never been served at the dance itself.

    • inycepoo

      Don’t the contents of your comment support Mr. Lee’s viewpoint exactly, though?

      His central claim is that none of this would be necessary if students would be a more responsible with their drinking. The eight hospitalizations were just the tip of the iceberg of the night; countless other mad intoxications occur during every Safety Dance (which are of a GREATER magnitude than anything that occurs during other times, btw), so ending Safety does not only affect the 8 who decided to go way overboard.

      Saying and accepting that this is a “[cultural problem which just can’t be solved]” is exactly the type of attitude Mr. Lee is trying to dispel. Perhaps challenging the status quo will always be frowned upon by the general public and maybe Silliman’s move isn’t the best way to accomplish that goal. But the fact that you don’t mention anything about trying to change student behavior **at all** proves his point.

      As for the issue about Yalies losing a night of fun, if dance parties, drinking, and getting intoxicated (regardless of severity) is the only way this generation knows how to “bond” with each other and form “friendships,” then that in itself is a huge, huge problem which needs to be dealt with. Could efforts to do so be futile? Yes. But remember that it took Edison hundreds of tries before any of his inventions came to fruition.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Cocktail Hour.

    Wine with dinner.

    A nightcap.

    This stuffy triptych was more than a pretentious bougeois ritual. It was “pacing”. It was a barometer which allowed one to know if they were going too far.

    Today everyone is on his/her own.

    There is no alphabet of progression. It is either A or it is Z. Nothing in between.







    • sre2012

      PK you must be having a field day with all these liquor articles…

  • mrmike527

    > Absent of Safety Dance, Yale will have one less night of widespread intoxication every year

    This is so unbelievably foolish. Do you think 2300 people were going to Safety Dance 3 years ago? Next year there will be some party or some combination of parties that makes up for the absence of Safety Dance. Parties don’t create demand for binge drinking, as some in the administration seem to believe, but rather respond to demand.

    The administration has decided to completely ignore its students on tailgate policy, off campus party policy, and now on campus party policy. What we’re left with is a set of bumbling (albeit well-intentioned) bozos who are not really doing anything to curb alcohol use while making alcohol use on campus significantly less safe. There is no end game or final goal here for the university, so they’re stuck playing whack-a-mole.

    There are probably 8 students that, as a result of these consequences, are reconsidering their attitude toward alcohol. Then, there are 2,292 others who are probably reconsidering how they deal with a friend that’s too intoxicated. Was that the university’s goal here?

  • The Anti-Yale

    “PK you must be having a field day with all these liquor articles…”

    I’m no saint. I drank for 19 years—and made a fool of myself, hurting others. It’s part of growing up.

    I recall the story my mother told me (my father NEVER mentioned it) of my father, when he was 16, going to the hospital on Christmas eve and listening to his mother scream all night long until she died, after being hit and run by a car driven by a drunk driver, as she stepped off a trolley in West Haven, Connecticut. She was 49.

    The cloud of my father’s depression hung over my childhood in many ways, only now recognized by me, almost seven decades later.

    Then my cousin’s 16 year old son

    Then my 37 year old housemate, the mother of four.


    All because of a shiny fluid sold legally on every street corner.

    Seems as fair as a tiny piece of metal in an instant taking away forever presidents of the United States.

    Sometimes I think Camus is correct: Life is a strange joke——-an unfunny one.

  • yalereadertoday

    Lives are saved when intoxicated students are taken to the hospital; this action must remain a priority and continue!

    May Yalies breathe life into this serious health problem on campuses everywhere, take ownership, and be at the forefront to a solution. It is a national crisis.

    Reality: With the new law effective Oct 1, CT universities will be under more scrutiny as property owners.

  • Branford73

    When students get drunk enough to do silly, embarrassing and/or misbehaving acts, things it can be funny, for the participants and the observers, and it can form the basis of lessons learned about limits and self-control.

    With that many transports, there should be dismay and shame among the student population that the culture has gotten so out of control that some kids had to be taken to the hospital. Something needs to be done on the student side:
    wider condemnation of behavior that goes beyond tipsy to blackout drunk,
    an acceptance of interventions by students to block the drinking before it gets to that level,
    when events are put on, larger numbers of students watching over the events to identify and remove out of control students–make the events safe and expel the ones who make it unsafe.

    Sad on a lot of levels, but unless the student body changes its own culture, there is no reason for the university to permit such events to continue.

    • Branford73

      By expel, I mean expel from the event, not from school.

  • somelonejunior

    Branford73, my thoughts exactly. Why are the 8 hospitalizations and numerous other binge drinking incidents not a sobering thought? Can we not just own up to our excessively risky behavior? People may find other ways to binge drink, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start evaluating ourselves and our culture in an honest manner. We should really start a discussion, and here’s my point: it really doesn’t have to be this way. This college social life akin to the excess of Safety Dance. It doesn’t have to be defined by a stomach-pumping, near-death poisoning. Drink a little, get tipsy or even a little merrily drunk and dance your cares away without a trip to DUH or Yale-New Haven.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “Drink a little, get tipsy or even a little merrily drunk and dance your cares away without a trip to DUH or Yale-New Haven.”

    There is no cultural pattern for this genteel thought. Cocktail Hour/winewith dinner/a nightcap are vestigial relics of an age gone by.

    Consumerism, shop-till-you-drop, reigns.