Yale students do not drink any more than any other students. They do not drink any less either.
A study conducted by the Core Alcohol and Drug Survey last year found that drug and alcohol use at Yale is comparable to the amount of use at schools of similar size and regional location, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said.
“We compared pretty evenly with other schools,” Trachtenberg said. “On binge drinking, we were lower than the national average. The majority of students have not been binge drinking within the last two weeks. Drug use was lower than similar schools and the national average.”
Following guidelines set out by Southern Illinois University’s Core Institute, Yale surveyed 700 undergraduates anonymously. Then Core researchers evaluated the results and compared them to the results from other institutions that had participated in the Core survey.
“What we wanted to know was an overview of the climate here and how we compared to other schools,” Trachtenberg said. “According to Core methodology, they give you the names of schools who have participated in Core. You choose half of them and submit the list. You do not know which schools they’re sending you information about.”
Trachtenberg said that to her knowledge Yale has not conducted any similar studies in the past, so it is difficult to determine how alcohol and drug use has changed over time.
“We’ve had more transports [to University Health Services], but I can’t tell you whether more people are drinking or more people are feeling comfortable with helping friends,” Trachtenberg said. “[There has been an] increase in the number of rides the minivan has been offering.”
The survey asked when students first used alcohol and specific types of drugs, how often they usually drink or take drugs, and what their perceptions are of other students’ drug and alcohol use. The survey asked such questions as, “think back over the last two weeks. How many times have you had five or more drinks at a sitting?”
“I think people were honest,” Trachtenberg said. “A very large number of students believe that the average student uses some alcohol once a week.”
Several freshman counselors said they do not feel alcohol use has changed since they were freshmen.
“I don’t think it really has changed much,” Timothy Dwight College freshman counselor Caitlin Bair ’02 said. “I think the first couple months of school, some kids start drinking a lot and too much because they’ve never been exposed to it before or never had the freedom — Most of them cut back significantly halfway through first semester.”
Ezra Stiles College freshman counselor Patrick Hazelton ’02 said this year’s freshman class in Stiles seems to have had fewer problems than his freshman class.
“Our particular freshman class in Stiles has been better than it was my freshman year, just based on how many alcohol- and drug-related problems we’ve had,” Hazelton said. “Based on what I know of what’s happened in other colleges, it seems pretty similar [to my freshman year]. It might just be the luck of the draw that we’ve had less problems this year.”
Trachtenberg said that regardless of the survey results, Yale will keep trying to inform students about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.
“We have to continue our efforts at educating students,” Trachtenberg said. “One of the things we have to do is to allow those students who don’t drink to feel they’re not alone.”