Yalies had mixed reactions to the recommendations of the University’s Committee on Alcohol Policy, which were publicly released on Friday and include many broad suggestions for alternatives to drinking but few direct changes to the Undergraduate Regulations.
The committee, which began its review last March, concentrated primarily on student safety in its report and addressed specific issues such as freshman drinking and alcohol education. While Elis both praised and criticized a number of the individual recommendations, many said the administration’s focus on dialogue and nonalcoholic social alternatives instead of enforcement fosters a healthy environment on campus.
The report highlights a desire to curb alcohol consumption in the freshman class and to provide late-night weekend alternatives for students who choose not to drink. Proposed alternatives included a new on-campus movie theater, a coffee shop and nighttime dance or athletics classes. In addition, the committee suggested adding several rules to the Undergraduate Regulations regarding the service of alcoholic beverages at campus parties.
Although many students said they would welcome the proposed social alternatives, some said they thought more weekend activities are unnecessary because Yalies already have many options from which to choose, with or without alcohol.
Deanna Arrieta ’09 said many of her suitemates choose not to consume alcohol regularly and do not have trouble finding weekend social opportunities.
“They have tons of things to do,” Arrieta said. “They still go out and go places and have just as much fun as everyone else.”
But Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said the committee identified peer pressure and a certain stigma associated with non-drinkers as problems on campus. The report stated that many key campus social events, such as the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s Halloween Show and Spring Fling, are closely associated with alcohol consumption.
“There are not a lot of events where alcohol isn’t a factor in the organized event, and there are students here who don’t drink,” Trachtenberg said. “We’d like to validate those people who don’t drink for whatever reason that is.”
The report also addressed concerns about students consuming alcohol on Thursday nights in addition to weekend drinking. The Committee recommended an increase in the number of Friday classes in order to discourage students from drinking excessively the night before.
“Partying now begins on Thursday night and … some of the partying begins on Wednesday night. That’s a long time to party,” Trachtenberg said. “Some people felt that if you had classes on Friday, people would have to do their work in preparation and the party scene would be mitigated by that.”
But a number of students said they do not like the idea of creating more Friday classes. Abby Jackson ’08 said that if the recommendation is implemented, it will put a damper on the weekend and that students who want to drink on Thursdays will still continue to do so.
“That sounds ridiculous to me,” Jackson said. “I hope these don’t actually pass, because that really will ruin Thursday nights.”
In addition to general recommendations, the committee proposed several additions to the current Undergraduate Regulations concerning alcohol, including a ban on grain alcohol on campus, a requirement that a certified bartender serve liquor and mixed drinks at registered parties and other organized events, and a stipulation that hosts stop serving alcohol one hour before a party’s scheduled end.
Some students said they would be pleased to see a ban on grain alcohol because it often leads to unsafe drinking when served in punch and other mixed drinks.
“I completely agree with banning grain alcohol on campus,” Arrieta said. “I’ve seen too many people get really sick because they didn’t know how much they were drinking.”
But many Elis said they think requiring a bartender at registered parties is unreasonable.
Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity member Greg Aponte ’06 said it is impractical for a fraternity, let alone a party in a dorm room, to have a certified bartender.
“If you have this rule that no one can really uphold, everybody will break it,” Aponte said.
Although many students criticized parts of the report, most said they are glad the administration has continued to stress student health and personal responsibility over enforcement.
Yale College Council President Steven Syverud ’06 said he thinks the committee’s suggestions are appropriate to Yale’s traditionally safety-conscious approach regarding alcohol regulation.
“I think they are pretty fair,” he said. “It’s in keeping with Yale’s general philosophy toward alcohol.”
The report also aimed to moderate drinking among freshmen by proposing a new social space on Old Campus for freshman gatherings and a new system of resident fellows for advising — but not policing — purposes.
Stephen Chan ’09 said that although some binge drinking does occur among freshmen, he does not think a common social space will help cut down on alcohol consumption, and he thinks a system of resident fellows is unneeded.
“Personally, I think the freshman counselors do a good job as it is,” Chan said.
The committee also proposed modifying Bulldog Days and Camp Yale to take emphasis off of excessive alcohol consumption. But a number of students said these events include enough scheduled activities that there is not significant pressure to drink for prospective students or incoming freshmen, respectively.
“I was actually very surprised to come in contact with any drinking at all at Bulldog Days because there was so much going on … that didn’t involve drinking,” Arrieta said.
The recommendations also included increasing dialogue with campus organizations in order to reduce unsafe and underage alcohol consumption. While some students said certain groups — including fraternities and a cappella groups — have been singled out unfairly, others said dialogue with the administration is preferable to a clampdown on organized events.
Jesse Harris ’08 said she thinks that for any alcohol recommendations to be effective, it is important for the administration to continue focusing on safety rather than punishment.
“As long as they are not creating more punishments, I think it’s fine,” she said. “There is nothing wrong with offering alternatives to drinking, but I don’t think that the administration should be limiting the drinking that is happening, as long as it’s being done in a safe way.”
The committee also recommended a “joint forum” for residential college masters and deans to discuss the implementation of strategies to better protect student health.