While many Yale students agreed that the University’s alcohol policy, which places emphasis on safety over punishment, is the most lenient in the Ivy League, administrators are currently reassessing the school’s approach to alcohol.
On the spectrum of college’s attitudes toward alcohol, Yale’s falls to the more liberal end.
At Colby College in Maine, students over 21 can purchase alcohol with their meals in dining halls. On the other hand, schools such as Messiah College in Pennsylvania and the Savannah College of Art and Design are “dry,” and thus permit no alcohol on campus. At Dartmouth, Theta Delta Chi fraternity was charged with five felony counts of serving alcohol to minors this spring when one of the brothers called the school’s safety and security office to seek medical help for an intoxicated minor. At Brown, however, students can call their school’s emergency medical services system to help intoxicated students without fear of punishment.
Yale’s policy on alcohol on paper states that no one under the age of 21 may consume alcohol, and no one of legal drinking age may serve alcohol to a minor. Violations will result in disciplinary action, either by the master or dean of the student’s residential college or by the Yale College Executive Committee.
But underage drinking certainly occurs on campus, and both students and University personnel alike acknowledge that the policy is seldom enforced. Although University Health Services Director Paul Genecin said underage intoxicated students are frequently taken to UHS, they are not subject to disciplinary action. Students are encouraged to bring their peers to the clinic, and only severe cases of intoxication leading to hospital admission would be brought to the attention of the residential college master or dean, he said.
“Their residential college dean is informed, but not of their clinical status,” Genecin said.
When Yale College Council President Andrew Cedar ’06 discussed alcohol policy with students at other universities at an Ivy League student government conference last year, the general consensus among the other students was that Yale’s alcohol policy is ideal, Cedar said. Many of the students said they wanted to urge their own administrations to follow suit.
“Ours was sort of the envy of everyone else’s,” Cedar said. “We seem to be having the most progressive and responsible policy in terms of making sure that the primary concern is safety as opposed to being punitive.”
But the status quo may change amid growing national concern at the increasing level of binge drinking on college campuses. Over spring break, Yale President Richard Levin appointed a committee — composed of approximately a dozen members, including Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg, UHS officials, residential college masters and deans, other administrators, faculty members and two students — to review the University’s alcohol policy.
The committee is still in the “education phase” according to Salovey, but once the committee’s members complete their deliberations, they will write a report of recommendations and give the report to Levin. Salovey said the report will likely be finished by early fall.
“We’re meeting every week,” Salovey said. “It’s a complex area, and we want to give it a thorough study.”