The past two years have seen a significant increase in the percentage of calls for medical transport in alcohol-related emergencies that are made by students.
In fall 2012, only 30 percent of alcohol-related emergency transports were initiated by students who were not Freshman Counselors. Last fall, after the introduction of a new medical emergency policy and a wave of new educational initiatives about the warning signs of high-risk drinking, that number rose to 51 percent — a 70 percent increase, said Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd. Both the MEP and the new programming are part of the college’s push to emphasize alcohol as a public health issue, rather than a disciplinary one, Boyd said.
“The primary goal of the new MEP was to encourage students to call for help in cases of alcohol-related medical emergencies,” Boyd said. “This is the best way to make sure that everyone who needs an emergency transport gets one. Freshman counselors have long been good at calling for help, but other students were not always.”
The MEP states that if any student calls for help for another student who is intoxicated, none of the students involved — the student transported, the student calling for help, the host or guests of the event, or any student organization sponsoring the event — will face disciplinary action for alcohol violations.
The policy change mostly impacts student hosts, Boyd said, adding that although the student being transported has always been treated as a medical rather than a disciplinary case, other students involved were previously in danger of being sent to the Executive Committee.
“Before the MEP, students and student organizations whose hosting practices contributed to an alcohol emergency were likely to face disciplinary charges,” Boyd said. “Now, the routine path would be to have an educational conversation about hosting practices with the Student Affairs Fellows at [the Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm Reduction Initiative].”
If it is clear that the hosts did not contribute to the emergency, she added, they would not have to participate in training at all.
Student Affairs Fellow Hana Awwad ’14, who works with the AODHRI alongside David Lindsey’12, the other student affairs fellow, said they aim to have positive conversations during the trainings that are conducive to actual change, rather than simply reprimanding students.
“As recent grads, we’re kind of ‘near-peers’ so we know that planning a party at Yale can be tricky, and we can work with student groups to think through some of the more challenging parts,” Awwad said. “The conversations we have are non-disciplinary and non-judgmental.”
Five students interviewed said they believe Yale prioritizes student health and safety over discipline in cases of alcohol consumption. However, only three of those interviewed were aware of the MEP.
Still, all five students said they believe it is a useful addition to Yale’s policies.
“I think it’s definitely a better stance, because if there weren’t [such a policy] students would still drink anyway,” Leanne Motylenski ’16 said. “It’s not something you can prevent. [The MEP] is a necessary action and a good stance for them to take because there is no better option.”
The MEP is just one of several steps taken by the AODHRI to decrease high-risk drinking on campus, Awwad said. The AODHRI has also tried to promote a safer drinking culture by providing resources such as classes on bartending or crowd management.
She added that the AODHRI hopes to address the problems of collective ignorance concerning alcohol policy and skewed perceptions of social norms by providing training to students about the physiological effects of alcohol and how to effectively man the door at crowded parties, among other topics.
In January, the AODHRI also announced that it would hire a small team of student interns to help it design and implement new programming. The goal, Lindsey said, is to take advantage of current students’ familiarity with campus social life to maximize the initiative’s effectiveness.
Overall, Lindsey added that he has seen a shift in campus culture, with large campus events, which tended to be the source of many alcohol emergencies, seeming calmer in recent years. In November, Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry sent an email to students regarding the annual Harvard-Yale football game, in which he noted that had been “impressed by the positive atmosphere” on Halloween, noting that there were fewer negative incidents than in past years.
“We have seen similar patterns this year at the Game and other big campus events,” Lindsey said. “It’s wonderful to see a shift in campus norms.”
Upperclassmen interviewed agreed that campus drinking culture has improved over the past few years, but they were not confident that the change was attributable to Yale’s policies. Motylenski said students’ drinking habits depend more on their social circles than anything else.
Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin said that while he believes it is too early to draw any conclusions about the impact of the policy changes, he hopes that any student would seek the necessary help without concern for repercussions.
The MEP will be assessed for effectiveness at the end of the 2014–’15 school year, Awwad said.
According to data compiled by the AODHRI and the Office of Institutional Research, 62 percent of Yale students surveyed reported binge drinking.