The Oct. 1 Connecticut law banning the private possession of alcohol by those under 21 has not changed Yale’s Undergraduate Regulations or policy of prioritizing students’ safety, Council of Masters Chair Judith Krauss said Tuesday at an open forum on alcohol sponsored by the Yale College Council.
The forum, which drew about two dozen students including YCC members, featured question and answer sessions with Krauss and state Representative Bill Dyson, whose district includes parts of New Haven. Forum organizer Rebecca Taber ’08 said the event was intended to clarify the consequences of the law — about which many students are confused — but some students said they found the forum unhelpful.
Taber said the Council received several questions about the law’s implications for student social life, both on and off campus.
“The reason we decided to put on this forum was because a large number of students seemed to want to know exactly how the administration was planning on dealing with the new policy,” she said.
The new law places legal responsibility on residential college masters to take “reasonable” steps to intervene if they believe that underage drinking is going on, but masters will still focus primarily on ensuring that students are not being reckless or unhealthy, Krauss said. She said the new law will not mean more aggressive efforts by the Yale Police Department to crack down on illegal drinking.
“Are they going to go knocking on student doors, looking for students who are drinking? Absolutely not,” Krauss said. “The Yale police are only going to respond if they’re called for some reason.”
She said residential college masters will make attempts to break up room parties only if they see clear evidence — such as a chair thrown out of a window or a large group of people loitering in a courtyard — suggesting that students are violating Undergraduate Regulations.
At a recent retreat, the Council of Masters decided to increase its efforts to make students aware of the existing regulations, including the need to register parties of more than 20 people with the master’s office and hire a police officer and a bartender for gatherings of more than 50, Krauss said.
Dyson said he expects the New Haven Police Department’s policy toward off-campus parties that serve alcohol to remain same as it was before the law was amended. He said he thinks NHPD officers will decide how to deal with underage drinking based on how the party hosts interact with officers.
“I assume that [the police] view themselves as being concerned about students’ well-being,” he said. “Unless somebody is just aching to be confrontational, my guess is that they won’t do a whole lot.”
Officers from the YPD and the NHPD were invited to speak at the forum but were unable to attend because a funeral wake for police officer Daniel Picagli, who was killed in a car accident last week, was held Tuesday.
YCC Secretary Zach Marks ’09 said he thought the forum was helpful in clearing up parts of the new law that seemed ambiguous, but some Yalies said the forum did not satisfactorily address all of their questions.
“I thought it would have been a lot more helpful if there had been a police officer there,” Sam Strasser ’08, who lives off campus, said. “The stuff Yale hasn’t addressed … is the off-campus stuff and what they’re going to do with violators. If an off-campus party is broken up, what is Yale going to do about it?”
The forum was the first of several that the YCC is planning for this year on issues of interest to students, YCC President Emery Choi ’07 said. Future forums will address financial aid, socioeconomic diversity and opportunities for students to study abroad, he said.