Over the last year, we have spent a great deal of time dissecting our “campus climate.” But we cannot expect our campus to become civil and respectful if we allow an institution with entirely conflicting values to flourish in its midst. Standing on York Street is a citadel of vulgarity that damages Yale night after night. It brings people devoid of class or morality into the heart of our campus and strips normally benign Yale students of their own decency.
Toad’s Place exerts a significant and malign influence upon our campus. It is a haven for those who would like to live in a world where their actions have no consequences and where one night’s mistake is the next morning’s hazy memory. This in itself is not problematic; the lifestyles we lead are matters of personal choice, and if some people are unable to get through the week without a surreptitious encounter with someone they met five minutes ago, that is not my concern.
Toad’s does not, however, exist in a vacuum. It has a real and negative impact upon its neighbors, for whom it shows neither respect nor concern. Those of us who live in Morse or Stiles have grown accustomed to witnessing public urination, physical violence, vomiting, drug use and threatening behavior as we attempt to return to our colleges via the pathway off York Street.
Instead of dealing with these problems, the management of Toad’s exacerbates them. Penny shots and open bars take those who are already inebriated and make them still more drunk. Their hired security ignore the surrounding area, preferring to focus on collecting admission fees than on transgressions a few feet away.
Yale claims to foster a safe and comfortable campus environment, and for the most part it succeeds in this task. But in its failure to appropriately regulate the area surrounding Toad’s, it indirectly contributes to a hostile and intimidating atmosphere repulsive to many of its own students.
Many of the worst offenders are not Yale students. In particular, the administration of Quinnipiac University ought to be ashamed of the part that hundreds of its own students play in creating scenes of squalor on the streets of New Haven. Repeated acts of public urination mean that even the company paid by Quinnipiac to transport its students into downtown New Haven is threatening to cancel its service. Perhaps we ought to send a garbage truck filled with trash, vomit and urine and deposit it outside a Quinnipiac dormitory; this would serve only as minor recompense for what is done to our campus several times a week.
Relying on others to deal with these issues will not work. Toad’s is happy as long as it makes money. Quinnipiac is happy as long as its students aren’t on its campus. The only actor capable of intervening on our behalf is the Yale administration.
That intervention could take several forms. Yale Police’s service in the Toad’s area has been responsive and appreciated. But it has also been insufficient. One or two police officers, no matter how well-trained, cannot be expected to deal with rowdy and unruly crowds totaling hundreds of people — first of all, Yale Security and Yale Police must place more boots on the ground.
Second, the right of Morse and Stiles students to access their colleges in a safe and secure manner must be seen as sacrosanct. The York Street passageway is Yale University property, and a swipe card-secured gate would go a long way toward preventing unwanted visitors at night. It would be naïve to assume that others would not at times pass through the gate, but the crowds would be smaller, allowing the police to take effective and targeted action against intruders.
These steps may well be inadequate; a more radical response could be required. Yale’s ongoing bid to gentrify the Broadway area has involved closing a number of shops that were no longer seen as appropriate tenants in an upscale shopping district. Yet Toad’s remains. It is within Yale’s power to change that by purchasing the Toad’s site and closing the nightclub down. The benefits would be genuine, immediate and long-lasting.
I do not seek to condemn every student who has ever been to Toad’s. But remember what you contribute to when you hand over your admission fee or buy a drink inside. The increasing eagerness of the Toad’s management to offer students free entry or drinks could well indicate that the institution is struggling financially, especially with the more responsible Box 63 having set up shop nearby. This is to be welcomed. Whether the demise of Toad’s comes about through student rejection or through administrative action is a detail; what matters is that we restore civility to our campus. To make this happen, Toad’s Place must close — for good.
Alex Fisher is a sophomore in Morse College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.