Halloween dies out at the end of middle school and — without a doubt — comes back to life with a vengeance in college.
Halloween at Yale is a week-long affair. Beginning last Saturday night with a slew of parties, the festivities will continue through at least Wednesday, when the Yale Symphony Orchestra hosts its annual Halloween Show at 11:59 p.m. While students claim the holiday occupies a central place in the collegiate social scene, the scale of the debauchery has some University officials concerned for the health of students and the safety of Yale property.
“We want everyone to enjoy themselves,” Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry said. “But we want to make sure people are safe.”
But University officials said it is often difficult for the administration to make its concerns heard amid raucous student revelry. Delta Kappa Epsilon President Stephen Morse ’08 said the fraternity’s annual “Mortician’s Ball” last weekend played host to over 500 students and featured 15 kegs. Pierson Student Activities Council Chair Constantine Lapaseotes ’08 said at Saturday night’s “Inferno” party, a supply of 350 cups ran out “pretty fast.”
Enticed by the dizzying array of “liquor treat” pre-games, fraternity and cultural house functions and college parties, many Yale students are going out in force this week after emerging from midterm study mode.
Freshmen said they find the extent of the celebrations on campus surprising. But some, like Zachary Fuhrer ’11, said the timing — following a hard week of mid-terms — makes sense, given that most students see a drop-off in work and studying following the major mid-semester tests.
“It’s not like you can really go out hard for Rosh Hashanah,” Fuhrer said. “[Halloween] is the first real fun holiday of the year.”
But Ian Snow ’11 said he suspects that the explanation is more complex than mere coincidental timing. Noting that Yale students tend to “be enthusiastic about everything,” Snow said he had some foreshadowing of the magnitude of the celebrations earlier this month when the midnight re-opening of the Bass Library drew some 1,000 students to Cross Campus.
“If we can go out hard for [a library opening], I’m sure we can go out just as hard for a real holiday,” Snow said.
The problem with Halloween is that students sometimes end up with “tricks” when they set out for “treats” — the fun nights of Halloween often conclude on the front door of University Health Services. Substance Abuse Counselor Marie Baker said the Mental Health Hygiene division at UHS sees an upsurge in alcohol-related referrals around the Halloween holiday. Baker explained that the practice known as liquor treating plays a role in the increase. On a night of liquor treating, students substitute Kahlua for Kit Kats and visit several suites to sample their signature alcohol drinks.
“When you’re liquor treating, you do not know the alcohol concentration of the drink you’re consuming,” Baker said. “That does not sit well in students’ stomachs.”
Psychology professor William Corbin said he is not sure college students can be prevented from drinking on Halloween. But he said he does believe in what he calls “harm reduction” — focusing on minimizing the amount and magnitude of alcohol abuse on college campuses. Corbin said he encourages students to evaluate how their own expectations of inebriated behavior — which may include tendencies to relax, talk and flirt — can influence how they act. If students question whether those same experiences could be produced without the aid of alcohol, he said, they may be less likely to use alcohol as a social crutch.
“A lot of the effects people get when they drink aren’t based on the alcohol,” Corbin said. “You’ll notice it when you’re out with friends at a bar and one of them has a sip of one drink and they change.”