Nobody ever claimed Harvard knew how to party. But despite our low expectations, we cannot help but be disappointed as we watch the Cantabs prepare a new set of regulations for tailgates at next month’s Harvard-Yale game. The list of proposed rules is long — a limit on the amount of alcohol individuals can carry to the tailgate, a ban on U-Hauls, ID checks at the kegs, which can be purchased only by the Harvard Undergraduate Council — but they leave us with a simple conclusion. Harvard is addressing a serious problem with a solution that could make things much, much worse.
Unlike Harvard, Yale has recognized a fundamental truth when it comes to excessive student drinking: It must be dealt with first and foremost as a health issue, not a disciplinary one. Harvard administrators should not delude themselves — students who are determined to drink heavily at the Game will still do so. But they won’t be partying with Dixie cups next to U-Hauls on a crowded field. Instead, they will be swigging out of flasks or taking shots out of plain view. The likely result is frightening: Students will drink too much too fast, and they will be less willing to seek medical attention when they need it.
Under pressure from the Boston Police Department, the Harvard administration has ignored this uncomfortable fact. And where has the Harvard Undergraduate Council been? The council’s leaders feebly objected, gained the smallest of concessions and then unconvincingly called the proposed plan a “really great compromise.” In fact, the only triumph of the council, it seems, is to apply the new regulations in a mean-spirited and unfair way to Yale.
Under the current plan, the council, the Harvard house committees and Yale will all pitch in to purchase kegs from a distributor, United Liquors. If any beer is left over, United Liquors will reimburse those three groups — but according to the Harvard council, the reimbursements will go to it first, then to the Harvard houses and then to Yale. The practical impact of this arrangement? As the council’s vice president, Michael Blickstead, made it clear to The Harvard Crimson, “We’re drinking Yale’s beer first.”
Harvard has the right to set its own policies regarding tailgates in Boston. But when The Game is in New Haven, we pride ourselves on not only having a good time, but being good hosts, too. Now, Harvard’s student council seems determined to return that hospitality by deliberately ripping off Yalies. The attitude of the council, as far as we can tell, is that if these unfortunate regulations are going to be in place, Yale students should suffer.
We hope the Yale College Council is clear with its Harvard counterpart: Yale students will not participate in a plan that requires them to pay more than their fair share for beer. And if the United Liquors arrangement causes Yale fans to stay away from the tailgates and party elsewhere, it has the potential to only further encourage underground drinking.
We understand the need to balance safety and fun at The Game. Unfortunately, it appears Harvard is pursuing a plan that comes at the expense of both.