I realize I’m not actually old enough to be nostalgic, but I am. I’m nostalgic for a time when Yale administrators weren’t concerned with making laundry lists of rules for tailgating and partying during the weekend of the Game. But despite my wish to see Branford’s courtyard packed and tipsy girls perched precariously atop the Sig Ep U-Haul, I am not going to use this column as a public platform for complaint.
Instead, I want to explore what has made the administrators so intent on creating rules this year and what we as students can do about it. There are a few possible reasons why the Yale Council of Masters and the Yale College Dean’s Office are cracking down on risky activities. One may be the desire to copy Harvard’s rules and regulations concerning The Game. If Harvard administrators find it necessary to control student drinking and partying, perhaps we should, too.
While Yale may be taking precautions similar to Harvard’s (though I would argue ours are more effective), I believe the actions taken by the two schools in the past few years reflect a larger trend on college campuses — the increasing prevalence of binge drinking. I believe binge drinking is less of a problem at Yale than it is at other schools, but its very existence in the alcohol culture here is still cause for concern.
When we arrive on campus as freshmen, we are repeatedly told that Yale emphasizes safety over punishment when it comes to alcohol use. It is assumed we will uphold our end of the bargain and not abuse the system, but I think recently there has been an upsurge in the number of students who do. We take for granted that Yale’s alcohol policy is extremely lenient and abuse the system by binge drinking and acting as though we are entitled to do so.
As a freshman counselor, I have witnessed my fair share of visits to DUH, which is usual for each incoming class. The freshmen aren’t supposed to know any better, and are expected to experiment until they learn how to drink responsibly. Unfortunately, I have noticed that there are quite a few upperclassmen that never learned this lesson and continue to binge drink all four years. Instead of using alcohol responsibly during social functions, alcohol becomes the social function.
I believe it is this trend that concerns the administrators the most and has caused them to create their lists of rules governing our behavior during the weekend of The Game. When alcohol becomes the central focus of social functions, those involved put themselves in physical danger and often end up causing damage to their surroundings. While the new rules may not prevent students from drinking and causing damage, I think they reflect recent alcohol consumption patterns amongst Yale students.
Of course, not everyone here contributes to the alcohol culture on campus. I know many people who choose not to drink, but I find that many of these people feel isolated from a large portion of social events on campus. The binge drinking culture has become so pervasive that you either participate fully, or you are left out of a number of functions on or around campus that center on drinking. Not only has this behavior become dangerous, it has also become a socially isolating phenomenon.
Furthermore, not everyone who drinks does so irresponsibly, and not everyone who does so intends to drink to excess. Binge drinking is a trend, and like most trends, it is easy to get swept up in it. Luckily, the nature of trends also suggests that it will pass, and binge drinking will hopefully lose its prevalent position on college campuses.
I think it’s sufficient to say that very few students and alumni from both Harvard and Yale are particularly pleased with the new tailgating and partying regulations, but we all must realize that the only way we can return to the days of packed courtyards and car-top dance parties is by demonstrating that we know how to enjoy ourselves responsibly. Therefore, I ask all of you to be aware of your actions the weekend of The Game and prove that we don’t need administrators to govern how we behave, because we can do it ourselves.
Emma VanGenderen is a senior in Branford College.