I imagine my trip to Safety Dance this year was typical for a Yale student. I suited up (hot pink shirt and a silver blazer, both collars popped) and tried once again to hit that high note in “Take On Me.” I’m not sure whether it’s the neon colors or just the fact that the dance typically falls right when we all need a relief from the stress of midterms, but everyone has a special brand of excitement for the night of Safety.
But let’s go back to Saturday afternoon. I skimmed a forwarded email about how the administration “give[s] serious consideration to discontinuing [the dance] in future years” because of student binge drinking. To me, it seemed like a disgruntled master attempting to place blame on the shoulders of students just looking to make the most of their Saturday nights while their livers were young enough to take it.
Yesterday, I was shocked to hear that Silliman’s master actually took action.
Considering it was a campus-wide party, eight students taking a trip to the hospital didn’t seem largely out of the ordinary, especially when only three of those students were actually at the dance. For some of us, these experiences are exactly what college is about. We live for the first time, we experiment, we drop classes, change majors, discover who we are, and sometimes, we exceed our limits.
I appreciated the freedom that accompanied the alcohol policy that was taught last year. I’m sure everyone has heard it from his/her dean: “Drinking is a health issue before it’s a disciplinary issue.” And so the conversation on campus followed. Students said it was okay if you went to Yale Health, just as long as you left early enough in the morning. Other than an awkward meeting with your dean, the problem ended with you realizing how terrible it is to wake up in a hospital. I saw it happen to some of my closest friends last year. I even carried one of them to the Yale shuttle. It seemed that they learned their lessons, and that seems to me like a process that works.
No one has told students that there has been a formal change in the alcohol policy. So by cancelling Safety Dance, Yale has created a paradox where alcohol consumption is supposedly a health issue, yet it has administered a large-scale punishment in the event of these hospitalizations.
This was a college-sponsored dance. Who knows what would have happened to those in charge of Safety if they had simply been a registered campus party like the rest of ours? I’m not sure exactly what caused this reversal in policy, but the death of Safety seems to be right on par with tailgates that end at kick-off, or registered parties entertaining visits from the Yale Police Department even when they haven’t been too loud. Yale administration is continuing to say to students: “Read between the lines — if you drink, we will shut you down.”
My prediction is that students will just binge drink for another dance. By shutting down registered parties, or punishing fraternities when a student at their party exceeds their limit, Yale is unintentionally telling students that necessary hospitalizations will become a statistic used against the student body. If Yale punishes us for seeking help, we will be afraid of going to the hospital when we need to.
Yesterday, administrative outrage was due to students waking up safely at the hospital. If administrators truly want to crack down on discipline, somewhere along the line a student’s safety is going to suffer.
Yale administrators should be standing by their message that they are here to keep us safe when we make mistakes, rather than punishing us all when a few students learn their limits. Bringing back Safety Dance goes along with what Yale really needs to reaffirm: student safety is still our number one priority. With this in mind, cancelling Safety seems to be far too literal.
Kyle Krzesowik is a sophomore in Morse College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.