In a campus-wide email this weekend, Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry explained the reasoning behind new regulations governing parties. We admire his honesty but disagree with his methods. With initiatives like the new off-campus party registration rules, Yale is abandoning what had been a progressive alcohol policy. Though there are indeed problems with drinking on campus, the Dean’s Office should rely less heavily on ExComm to solve them.
Gentry wrote with unusual openness about administrators’ concerns about drinking. “To give you a better sense of what is prompting these changes,” he said, “let me tell you candidly what I am seeing: alcohol and other drugs are harming Yale students, in some cases severely.”
That much is undeniably true. Too many students black out too often; too many are taken to Yale Health. That culture of alcoholic excess has led to tragedies and has contributed to concerns about Yale’s sexual climate. We came to Yale to learn, and one of the things we should learn is how to drink responsibly.
Gentry’s email also elevated the discussion beyond questions of regulations, asking students to “continue finding yourself, not losing yourself.” That is the kind of message we should hear from our dean of students; the administration has an important role to play in promoting a healthy drinking culture. But recent changes are pushing students in the wrong direction. As the administration relies more and more on the specter of an ExComm case to regulate drinking, students are more likely not to seek out help and to see adults as enemies rather than the allies they should be.
Until recently, Yale maintained that drinking is a safety issue, not a disciplinary one. Freshman counselors are still told to relay that stance to their freshmen. But calling an ambulance to an unregistered party now carries the fear of jeopardizing not only one’s own standing at Yale, but also that of one’s friends’. Gentry said he wants to encourage students to ask for help and to open a dialogue about drinking. Instead, he and his colleagues are creating confusion and anger in the student body.
Still, Gentry put his finger on a problem that is affecting not only Yale but college students nationwide. No one has found a solution. Students — even underage ones — are going to drink, and no policy is going to change that.
But there are methods beyond ExComm for creating the kind of constructive approach that Gentry claims to want. Ezra Stiles Master Stephen Pitti, for example, now offers suites that register parties $50 to be used toward food and non-alcoholic drinks. Students have a positive incentive to work through official channels, and partygoers get snacks to counterbalance their Dubra.
The University should embrace policies like Pitti’s. It should focus more on educating students about the health problems associated with heavy drinking, not just casting it as a sure path to ExComm.