New alcohol initiatives announced

In a Monday email, Yale College Dean Mary Miller informed the Yale College community about five new initiatives to reduce high-risk alcohol consumption, all of which will begin by next fall.

The initiatives on how to better handle alcohol-related issues on campus came jointly from the Yale College Dean’s Office (YCDO) Task Force on Alcohol and Other Drugs and the University Council Committee on Alcohol in Yale College (UCCAYC). The groups’ recommendations called for the University to unify its approach to alcohol, clarify and communicate policies old and new, enhance training and education on alcohol-related issues, provide events that are either alcohol-free or low-alcohol to students and engage the Yale community in conversation about alcohol and its related issues. Both groups consulted students in the formulation of their recommendations, though only the Task Force included student members.

“Students, faculty and staff have long pressed for a more welcoming social scene that supports community wellness and promotes healthy options,” Miller said in the email. “Students have reported a widespread perception that the University applies its alcohol policies inconsistently, and they say they are anxious about contacting authorities to help dangerously intoxicated peers.”

The recommendations primarily emerged from student input, which is why they emphasize communication, education and outreach rather than disciplinary policy reform, said Paul McKinley, Director of Strategic Communications .

For instance, McKinley said, the current educational workshops and modules given to underclassmen on alcohol and bystander intervention may be expanded, and it is also possible that training for freshman counselors and residential college masters and deans will be enhanced.

Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said he believes students’ understanding of alcohol should be refreshed throughout the years.

“As people mature and become juniors and seniors, they may need to know more than they may have had to as freshmen,” Gentry said.

McKinley underscored the administration’s desire to make students feel welcome on campus, regardless of their drinking habits. He said many students expressed hope for more locations and events on campus where they can choose to drink in moderation in an effort to avoid high-risk drinking.

Several administrators interviewed said they are proud the University approaches high-risk drinking as a public health issue, instead of focusing on individual behavior and disciplinary action.

Goff-Crews said the University hopes to take a broader perspective and discuss the type of community it is trying to create — one that is knowledgeable about the risks of drinking and understands how to support individuals and groups.

Over the next few weeks, McKinley said two committees will begin working in support of the first initiative. The implementation committee, led by Gentry and Goff-Crews, will encompass some former members of the Task Force, including the four students that served on it. The committee will concentrate on executing the policy changes and recommendations in an efficient and centralized manner. It also has two more positions for undergraduates, who will be selected through an application process, Goff-Crews said.

The other body, the advisory committee, will be a more permanent presence on campus and handle alcohol-related issues as they emerge, McKinley said. This body, led by Branford Master Elizabeth Bradley, will consist solely of students who apply for the positions.

During the same period of time, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd ’90 and YCDO fellows Garrett Fiddler ’11 and Hannah Peck DIV ’11 already have scheduled a number of dinners and discussions. Each residential college, Peck said, will have at least one meal or study break specifically to discuss the new initiatives and alcohol policy and procedures. Peck said they will also meet with student leaders — such as the Singing Group Council and the presidents of the Greek life community — to go over the new developments so that major campus leaders are able to voice their thoughts on how to revise and create new alcohol policy.

Goff-Crews said she hopes the residential college outreach will spur interested students to apply for the Implementation Committee so that work can begin as soon as possible.

“My hope is for us to have a significant amount of the policy work to be done by summer,” Goff-Crews said, adding that the new policies and programs should be ready by fall 2014.

According to McKinley and Gentry, the UCCAYC, which includes five external experts on alcohol, has agreed to be available in support of the implementation and advisory committees — an unprecedented move by any other University Council Committee.

Matthew Breuer ’14, who served on the Task Force and will sit on the implementation committee, said he has been satisfied with the overall process and with administrators’ willingness to listen to student input. He commended the University for embracing the public health approach and encouraged students to make their voices heard in the new committees.

The YCDO Task Force and UCCAYC were first announced in December 2012.

 

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