Open forum tackles alcohol

The University Council Committee on Alcohol discussed campus drinking culture with students in a Wednesday panel.
The University Council Committee on Alcohol discussed campus drinking culture with students in a Wednesday panel. Photo by Kathryn Crandall.

The number of students in attendance at last night’s Yale College Council Open Forum on Alcohol barely exceeded the number of panelists.

Eight administrators and experts in high-risk drinking prevention flown in from institutions across the country such as Stanford and Brown sat down with nine students in the Branford common room Tuesday night. The panelists are members of the University Council Committee on Alcohol, which was formed in December and is tasked with advising Yale’s president on alcohol policies. Council members took turns asking attendees about campus drinking culture and student perceptions of alcohol policies.

Although the forum was poorly attended, the committee is meeting with a wide cross-section of campus through small group discussions during a visit this week, said Eve Rice ’73, a psychiatrist who chairs the committee.

“I don’t expect a ton of people — I just hope for a couple of well-informed opinions,” Yale College Council President John Gonzalez ’14 said. “It’s hard to emphasize to students how important this group is.”

Gonzalez said he thinks the majority of the student body may not have read the emails sent by Yale College Dean Mary Miller and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86 on the formation of the University Council Committee. Still, he said he hopes students understand the importance of speaking with the committee because he believes its suggestions will play a large role in shaping future alcohol policy, more so than the recommendations of the University Task Force on Alcohol, which was also created in December and will concentrate on alcohol-related education and programs.

The campus visit is the second of three campus visits planned for the University Council Committee. The forums in January were “really packed” in comparison to Tuesday night’s forum, Goff-Crews said.

“The conversations from the [January open forum] to this one had a good amount of overlap,” Rice said. “Because it was bigger group [in January], we probably heard more bigger pieces than this particular group.”

The committee asked for student opinions via email in the announcements of the open forum, which were sent out by the YCC, but has not received many emails so far, Rice said.

Rice said the committee is emphasizing student interactions in focus groups on this trip, compared to the emphasis on meeting with masters and administrators in the January visit.

Bob Saltz, a committee member, said speaking with students has allowed him to learn about aspects of the social culture on campus that are unique to Yale, including how students approach the fraternity rush process and the attendance of off-campus parties. After a day of meetings with campus groups such as freshmen, fraternity leaders and leaders of student organizations, committee members came into the forum already recognizing some themes in student concerns (such as alcohol-related safety), Rice added.

Freshman Class Council member Lily Vanderbloemen ’16 said she noticed during the open forum Tuesday evening that the committee understood student perceptions of alcohol policy more than they did earlier in the day, when they met with freshmen.

The committee will hold its final meeting over the summer.

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