Not only did Yale win, but nearly every blue-clad student was sober enough to remember it.
Despite concerns that new regulations at the tailgate at this year’s Harvard-Yale game would encourage dangerous drinking and dampen student enthusiasm, most students and administrators said they were satisfied with how the tailgate went and Harvard does not expect to make major changes to its tailgate policy for future years.
Harvard’s new policy — which stipulated that no alcohol or liquids of any kind would be allowed into the tailgate area and that all tailgates had to shut down at halftime — drastically cut down on alcohol-related hospitalizations. Two students were removed from the tailgate because of alcohol poisoning, and only one of those was transferred to a local hospital for treatment, Harvard Director of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services Ryan Travia said. He said 30 students were hospitalized because of alcohol in 2004.
In addition, Travia said, fewer than 10 students were forced to leave the tailgate for underage drinking, smuggling in alcohol or carrying fake ID cards. He said fears that Harvard’s new tailgating rules would simply encourage students to drink before showing up proved to be unfounded.
“The general sentiment among many students and some staff was that these new rules were going to push the behaviors underground and increase the amount of pre-gaming,” Travia said. “And frankly we didn’t see it. Our data did not support those types of assertions.”
Travia said a total of 10 students were treated for acute alcohol intoxication between Thursday night and Sunday morning — a number lower than that of an average weekend at Harvard. Harvard Campus Life Fellow John Drake said only six students were treated at the tailgate’s health tent, compared with 60 in 2004.
Some students who attended the tailgate said a number of their peers successfully smuggled alcohol into the tailgate undetected by police officers who searched students’ bags upon entry, while others circumvented the rules by drinking before arriving at the tailgate.
“The houses did a lot trying to make up for the rules, serving alcohol in the dining halls in the morning,” Harvard senior Julia Forgie said. “People will always find a way to have a good time.”
Drake said the success of this year’s tailgate will allow administrators to reconsider some of the rules and possibly make slight alterations for 2008, but he expects most of the regulations will stay in place. While Harvard will still enforce the drinking age at future tailgates, he said, the university may allow students to bring other liquids into the tailgate.
“Police will always have to confiscate things they know to be alcohol,” he said. “If somebody brings in a fifth of Jack Daniels, it will be taken away. … I think [the rules on liquids are] something we can revisit. Most people this year were responsible, so we can talk about it.”
Drake said the Harvard College Dean’s Office will hold a wrap-up meeting sometime this week with all those involved in planning the tailgate. Planning for the next Game tailgate at Harvard will begin in nine or 10 months, he said, but rules for that event will not be announced until fall 2008.
But some students over 21, who were able to buy drinks from Harvard-sponsored vendors with two forms of identification, expressed concern about the tailgate’s organization. The Boston Police Department, which oversaw tailgate regulations in conjunction with Harvard, shut down beer distribution tents at 1 p.m., instead of at halftime as had been planned, Drake said. The BPD did not warn bartenders or those selling wristbands about the early shutdown, with the result that some students ended up paying for beer bracelets they could not redeem.
Drake said the BPD did not provide an explanation for the early closure, but said he thought the mix-up was the result of a “miscommunication” between the police and Harvard officials. The Harvard College Dean’s Office offered refunds to students who visited the office last week, Drake said.
While most students said they still enjoyed the tailgate, many said they think the stricter policies amounted to babysitting.
Lucy Sorensen ’09 said most students adapted well to the limitations, but that students felt cramped, crowded and closely watched.
“My only real criticisms are with the organization of the tailgate, rather than the drinking restrictions” she said. “The increased security personnel at Harvard was something that was very strange.”
The tailgate, which Drake said attracted about 10,000 people, was moved to a small parking lot adjacent to McCurdy Track because the regular tailgating space at Ohiri Field was under three inches of standing water.
Police officers at the entrance to the tailgate and security event staff at the stadium gates patted down students to ensure that they were not bringing in liquids. Joel Nezianya ’09 — who had a bottle of water confiscated while entering the tailgate — said he thinks Harvard’s new regulations were an overreaction to what happened two years ago, when many students brought bottles of liquor to the tailgate.
“I thought it was a little bit ridiculous,” he said. “I felt like it was meant to be airport security. … It was clearly an unopened bottle of water. They made no attempt to distinguish that from anything else.”
Allie Rubin ’08 said the new rules did not spoil her tailgate experience because she is 21. But she said she was frustrated that she had to pay for alcohol and thinks the rules in place in 2004 allowed students to have more fun.
“It was well organized considering all the new rules, and it seemed like the majority of the people who went had a good time,” she said. “I remember freshman year it being somewhat of a disaster, but it was definitely more fun freshman year.”
Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg said although this year’s tailgate ran smoothly, she thinks Yale will be unlikely to adopt similar policies at The Game next year. But she said it is too early to speculate on what the rules will be.
“I think we’ll go with what we did last year,” she said. “It’s another year away, and people have to get together and talk. I don’t want to make any predictions.”
Yale may change the rules for alumni tailgates, which the University shut down at halftime along with the student tailgates in 2005, Trachtenberg said.
Several Yalies said they hope the University will continue its policy of allowing students to make their own responsible decisions. Simone Berkower ’09 said students appreciate that Yale typically takes a more lenient stance than Harvard on alcohol policies and hopes students are left to make their own choices at next year’s Game.
Sandeep Ayyappan ’07 said stricter regulations may make next year’s tailgate at Yale safe, but administrators should carefully weigh considerations of both safety and fun.
“I guess that depends on what their goals are, in terms of whether they want the safest possible tailgate or the best overall undergraduate experience,” he said. “I do think it makes sense, but they have to try to manage their response in such a way that they do preserve the experience of it, the atmosphere of it.”