Task Force criticizes unclear policies

After its final meeting on Feb. 25, the Task Force on Alcohol and Other Drugs concluded that Yale has unclear disciplinary policies regarding alcohol-related incidents.

The 17-member task force, which was convened by the Yale College Dean’s Office in December to make recommendations on creating a safer drinking culture at the University, submitted a report in March to Yale College Dean Mary Miller and the University Council Committee on Alcohol in Yale College. The University has not publicly released the report, Dean’s Office fellow Garrett Fiddler ’11 said, in order to keep specific facts about Yale’s drinking culture out of the national media and because administrators will not implement all recommendations. The bulk of the group’s recommendations centered on creating new events and initiatives, such as improved alcohol-education during Camp Yale, said Yale College Council President John Gonzalez ’14, who is also a member of the task force.

The main policy recommendation addressed by the task force was the need for Yale to clarify disciplinary procedures, including the consequences of hospitalization due to intoxication, said Paul Hudak, master of Saybrook College and a member of the task force.

“As of right now, in practice, students do not receive any disciplinary action for going to Yale Health or Yale-New Haven for intoxication, unless it’s been a recurring problem,” Fiddler said. “However, a lot of that is practice but not explicitly written out. A lot of people, especially students, are not clearly informed.”

Students on the task force raised concerns that some undergraduates may expect disciplinary measures for being transported to Yale Health or Yale New-Haven Hospital, Gonzalez said. He added that he is unsure whether rumors of such incidents are true, but student members on the task force emphasized that even the perception of potential consequences could deter students from calling for help when needed.

The task force also discussed methods of consolidating and clarifying both alcohol policies and practices, Fiddler said.

“Every case that requires medical help is different, so it’s impossible — and unwise — to create a single policy that covers every situation,” Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry, who chaired the task force, said in a Tuesday e-mail. “However, it’s fair to say that any student who needs medical help because of intoxication should expect to be referred, usually by their residential college dean, for follow-up counseling.”

Fiddler said intoxicated students who go to Yale Health or Yale New-Haven are asked to meet with Marie Baker, a clinical psychologist at Yale Health, and, in most cases, their residential college dean. He added that the meetings are about health rather than discipline.

Students are required to appear before the Executive Committee in a small number of situations, Gentry said, such as when they are hospitalized for intoxication multiple times or when a separate violation of undergraduate regulations accompanies alcohol-related issues. Still, not all cases that appear before the Executive Committee result in disciplinary action, Gentry added.

The latest Executive Committee report, which describes cases from spring 2012, stated that the majority of cases that did not result in disciplinary action from ExComm involved alcohol-related violations of University policy. Twenty-two of the 80 cases that did not result in disciplinary action involved transports to the hospital.

“It is my hope that students will continue to call the Yale Police promptly when a fellow student is in need of help because of alcohol abuse, whether at an event or as a result of drinking in their rooms and apartments, and that we will maintain a sense of community that encourages people to do so,” said Carol Jacobs, chair of the 2011-’12 Yale College Executive Committee, in the report.

Discipline was the main policy issue discussed during the task force, but student members also informed administrators about current drinking practices, Gonzalez said, namely that high-risk drinking takes place in suites rather than fraternities or off-campus parties.

The task force met nine times since it was formed.

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