University rolls out alcohol initiatives

In an effort to create a safe environment on campus, Yale administrators are forming two groups to address alcohol and drug use among students.

Yale College Dean Mary Miller and University Secretary and Vice President for Student Affairs Kimberly Goff-Crews announced the initiatives — the Yale College Dean’s Office Task Force on Alcohol and Other Drugs, and the University Council Committee on Alcohol in Yale College — in a campuswide email Monday night. The task force will make recommendations based on information gathered from the campus community on alcohol and drug use, while the committee will consider expert opinions and provide top administrators with proposals on potential policy strategies.

University President Richard Levin said the committee will form in response to the Sept. 2011 report of the Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, which found that most instances of sexual misconduct are fueled by alcohol.

“People who are on this committee will [include] people who are academic experts on alcohol use by college students,” Levin said. “We’ll get some comparative perspective, and that will be helpful to us in understanding strategies that might be useful for students to think about implementing.”

Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, who will chair the task force, said he and other administrators worked to gather a diverse set of people to form the task force. The six students represented on the 17-person task force include Yale College Council President John Gonzalez ’14, Junior Class Council President Caroline Smith ’14, Sigma Nu fraternity President Tommy Ratchford ’14 and varsity track athlete and Rhodes scholar Dakota McCoy ’13.

The group will review data and seek student, faculty and staff input on programming, communications, safety and education before presenting a final report by early February. Gentry added that the group’s meetings will have an open floor, with everyone allowed the opportunity to talk as much as they want.

The University Council Committee will be comprised of experts and Yale alumni and parents who currently serve on the University Council, an advisory group to the president and senior administrators. The committee will build on the findings of the task force and provide advice on possible future strategies.

Goff-Crews said the committee will meet two to four times with members of the campus community to gain a better understanding of alcohol and drug use at Yale, and will also consider the environment at other schools to evaluate possible alcohol policies. Goff-Crews added that experts on the committee will specialize in college-age drinking issues and understand “how drinking affects choices on sexual climate issues.”

The University aims to take a leadership role among U.S. colleges and universities in its approach to reducing high-risk drinking on campus, said Paul McKinley DRA ’96, a spokesman for the Dean’s Office.

“There has been a rising concern at Yale over the last couple years over these issues, and almost everything is on the table as options [to address the problem] right now,” said Garrett Fiddler ’11, a YCDO fellow and another member of the task force.

Gonzalez, YCC president, said he and Debby Abramov ’14, who is YCC vice president and will also serve on the task force, have considered having the YCC send out a comprehensive alcohol survey, so that its results could then be presented to the task force. They have also considered partnering with local businesses to provide social alternatives to drinking, Gonzalez said.

“Yale students haven’t had the best alcohol education — I don’t think freshmen know much about alcohol,” Gonzalez said. “We are trying to look how we can promote alcohol education in a way that is not paternalistic.”

Matthew Breuer ’14, one of six students on the task force, said it is “really exciting” that Yale has committed to accepting student input by creating the task force, adding that he hopes students will see him as “someone to reach out to and make sure their ideas are heard.”

The task force has already begun its work, and Levin will convene the University Council Committee in January.

 

Cynthia Hua, Kirsten Schnackenberg and Julia Zorthian contributed reporting.

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