Alcohol disciplinary policies still unclear

alcohol survey

Over 200 students in Yale College have chosen not to seek assistance while intoxicated due to fear of disciplinary repercussions, according to a survey sent out by the Yale College Council in March.

The survey, which received 1,762 responses, was designed to supplement discussions by the Yale College Dean’s Office’s Task Force on Alcohol and Other Drugs — a group created in December to make recommendations for improving campus drinking culture — on the clarity of alcohol policies, an issue not considered in other surveys previously sent out by the University.

YCC President John Gonzalez ’14 said the survey drew the same conclusion as the task force itself — that students find the disciplinary policies regarding alcohol confusing, which negatively affects their behavior in potentially dangerous alcohol-related situations.

“The University is placed in a very difficult position — it must simultaneously uphold increasingly stringent state laws regarding alcohol, while recognizing that alcohol consumption is common among college students,” Gonzalez said.

According to the survey, 14 percent of respondents, or 209 students, reported personally experiencing a situation in which they chose not to seek assistance while intoxicated because they were afraid of disciplinary action. Nineteen percent reported deciding not to call for medical help for an intoxicated friend due to fear of potential disciplinary consequences.

But administrators on the task force interviewed last week said students who are transported to Yale Health or Yale-New Haven do not currently experience disciplinary repercussions unless their transports are recurring or other undergraduate policies unrelated to alcohol have also been violated.

“[We] expect students to call for help when they or their classmates need it. But we also expect students to understand that they are responsible for their actions, including when they violate state laws or the Undergraduate Regulations,” said Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry in an email to the News last week. “A host [for example] should expect to accept responsibility for violating both state alcohol laws and the Undergraduate Regulations, even as she or he should expect to summon emergency medical attention for anyone who needs it.”

Still, a majority of respondents said they felt “somewhat” informed on Yale’s alcohol disciplinary policies and 69 percent of respondents either “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed that the current policy at Yale is that alcohol is “first and foremost,” a safety issue, while 14 percent “somewhat” disagreed and 12 percent “strongly” disagreed.

The YCC plans to draft a public letter later this week to administrators providing specific recommendations for the University, including suggestions to emphasize safety over discipline and clarify alcohol policies, Gonzalez said. Student comments on the survey included multiple statements that Yale’s disciplinary policies appear to have become stricter in the past few years. One student complained that Yale Health asks students where they received their drinks, stating that requiring students to disclose where they received alcohol “penalizes off-campus groups and makes alcohol a disciplinary issue rather than a safety issue.”

Gonzalez added that the letter will also include a suggestion that Yale Police do not ask students where they received their drinks, because students are “likely to lie” about where they had consumed alcohol, placing blame on party hosts such as fraternities.

YCC Secretary Andrea Villena ’15 said she herself is not certain about the specifics of the University’s policies regarding alcohol, so she feels that clarifying the existing policies is as important as advocating for new ones.

“I think rather than just focusing on whether or not we should have a strict or lax alcohol policy, the main thing should be [that] whatever [policies] we have, students should be more aware,” Villena said. “I would not say I am 100 percent comfortable on what the [disciplinary] policy is.”

The task force held its last meeting on Feb. 25.

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