A flashback to 1933 reveals that our Crimson counterparts have had a long history of putting a damper on the alcohol-laden festivities of the Harvard-Yale Game. Does this glimpse of the past indicate that Cambridge parties will never live up to New Haven standards?
Like an overprotective parent, Harvard smothered the party at the Harvard-Yale Game in 2004. Wristbands during tailgates. No kegs. Security officials checking bags and sniffing Nalgenes for tell-tale signs of alcohol. But can we really blame those fun-sucking Cantabs? A look back to Harvard’s alcohol policy 72 years ago reveals that being boring is emblazoned all over Crimson history.
In the run-up to the Game in 1933, a group of Yale’s noble opponents had their rally carefully planned: beginning with a demonstration in Harvard Yard, an estimated 1,000 people were to take the streets of Cambridge by storm, and later, dance around a bonfire where the Cantabs would burn an effigy of Eli Yale. This select few of sprightly Cantabs plastered all of Harvard with banners and posters designed to excite the spirits of even the most demoralized Harvard student.
Their valiant efforts, however, failed to perk up many of their counterparts in Cambridge. Echoing the opinion of the Harvard Crimson, the leaders of the Harvard Critic, a Cantab publication at the time, were so rabidly opposed to the idea of demonstrations of school spirit that they formed an anti-rally committee. This group of party poopers sent out a telegram announcing that student support for the Game would not befit their prestige.
“This committee is formed for the protection of Harvard indifference,” the committee wrote. “It feels that pep meetings and other stupid exhibitions are more suited to colleges whose principle claim to glory is football excellence. [Let us not] descend to the level of a jerkwater.”
However, their lack of school spirit — or their outright anti-school spirit — prevailed at the time. William Bingham, then director of athletics at Harvard, vehemently opposed rallies as a “return to those archaic customs.” The last football rally at Harvard had been held six years before — in 1927.
Yale, on the other hand, was overflowing with Bulldog pride. In a period of blue blood machismo, the University even boasted male cheerleaders, who wore a navy blue ‘Y’ sewn on the front of white V-neck sweaters.
In 1933, authorities at Harvard imposed almost draconian regulations on student drinking. “Harvard Freshmen To Be Saved From Drinking Evil,” the Yale Daily News reported. The sub-headline said: “Authorities launch tremendous drive equipped with latest advancement and with grim determination.”
These regulations meant that “sturdy watchmen” were to check that late freshmen returned to their rooms sober at night, while “sniffers” were to screen freshmen for any conspicuous fumes of alcohol. “Peepers” were to use detachable keyholes to search for ‘evils’ (otherwise known as alcohol) in the rooms of unsuspecting freshmen.
So the security officials who tore open your bag and stuck their noses in your Nalgenes at last year’s Game had a precedent after all.
“Harvard will be seriously depleted by expulsions brought about on account of this breach of discipline,” the News’ editorial board wrote at the time, doubting the effectiveness of the Harvard’s regulations on alcohol. “Or whether freshmen will henceforth refrain from anything stronger than buttermilk.”
Even after 72 years, Harvard still hasn’t changed.