Two years ago, Yale tailgates saw rowdy crowds mixed with oversized trucks, couches, loud music, kegs and glass bottles filled with hard liquor. But on Saturday — the first tailgate of the 2013 football season — the scene was much more tame.
After a November 2011 accident at the Yale-Harvard tailgate resulted in one death and two injuries, the Yale administration took action to make the area surrounding Gate C of the Yale Bowl a safer environment. The stringent tailgate policies first introduced in January 2012 are still in effect, and students and administrators are paying more attention to safety issues at the start of another new football season.
Students who attended the Saturday tailgate said the atmosphere this year was safe but not stifling.
“It was a very positive environment where you were able to enjoy yourself safely,” said Mike Quinn ’16, member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity.
In recent months, Yale administrators and Yale Police have made an effort to specifically meet with fraternities about tailgate regulations, holding meetings with the groups to discuss the transportation of students and level of alcohol consumption at tailgates, among other topics.
Leander McCormick-Goodhart ’15, president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, said students seemed calmer about the regulations than they were last year.
“There seems to have been more outrage last year due to the sudden change in regulations,” he said. “I think that student attitude this year is very important — judging by my experience of the first tailgate last weekend, people seem intent on making the best of the new tailgate situation.”
After the Yale-Harvard tailgate accident two years ago resulted in the death of a 30-year-old woman and a subsequent lawsuit against several parties involved, the Yale administration revised its tailgate policies, making them significantly more rigid. Changes to the regulations included blanket bans on kegs and vehicles — particularly U-Haul trucks — in the tailgate area. At the time of the release of the new rules, administrators said that safety was the key consideration in their decision to modify the policies. While students initially protested that the alcohol rules were too strict, peer institutions including Brown, Cornell and Harvard have all also imposed bans on kegs in tailgate areas.
Prior to the November 2011 accident, Yale’s tailgate policies had already been restricted. In October of the same year, administrators in Yale College and the Yale Athletics Department reached a mutual decision requiring students to present valid identification to prove they were of legal drinking age. While the alcohol policy changes in 2011 upset several fraternity leaders because they interrupted long-standing traditions, students have largely acclimated to the changes and expressed understanding for the administration’s goal of increasing safety.
The heightened police presence at tailgates this year has not disturbed students as much as it did last year. Students interviewed from Saturday’s tailgate said they did not feel as though the closer watch of the tailgate area was imposing.
Two students interviewed said the ban on vehicles created a much safer environment because there is always the risk of drunk-driving any time that alcohol and vehicles are in close proximity. According to students interviewed, the barring of U-Haul trucks from the tailgate area also creates a more open social atmosphere in the tailgate village.
“When people are closed off in the back of a U-Haul truck, it is much harder to talk to them,” said Sophie Kaye ’15, adding that tents — which are now used in place of trucks — are accessible from all sides and promote a less closed-off atmosphere.
But while students nodded in agreement with policies such as the vehicle ban and removal of kegs, other facets of the policies still faced scrutiny and criticism. One of the major complaints regarding the new tailgate policies is the requirement for tailgates to start no earlier than three hours prior to kickoff and to cease immediately upon the start of the game.
“It was kind of a buzzkill,” Quinn said.
This year, it remains unclear whether any more specific rules will apply to the Harvard-Yale tailgate in November, aside from one allowing the tailgate to span four hours instead of three. Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Tailgates will continue through the entire football season, which ends with the Harvard-Yale game on Nov. 23.