As students across Yale College prepare for spring housing draw, certain suites within each residential college may bear a special appeal or lack thereof: the so-called “party suites.” Although many students believe these suites are a key feature of Yale’s social landscape, some disagree about their overall importance in Yale’s larger party scene.
Roughly three-quarters of Yale’s 12 residential colleges contain a party suite — a large suite that comes with the expectation that its residents will host events that are accessible to the larger college community. But according to residential college masters interviewed, whether or not each college chooses to financially support the activities of such suites is left to each college’s discretion. As a result, only some of these party suites receive funding, with the rest of the party suites’ residents left to fund events on their own.
Still, residents of party suites interviewed said the different level of funding across colleges has a minimal impact on events they host. While most students said that on-campus parties tend to be safer than off-campus ones, they also agreed that increased funding ultimately would not change Yale’s off-campus party culture.
“I think [on-campus parties] are definitely easier to regulate because the fact that the room is within the college, under the sight of the master and dean, probably tames the degree to which [unsafe] events occur,” said Mevlut Ikiz ’17, a resident of Timothy Dwight College’s Octet, which does not receive funding from the college. “But my experience has shown me that … giving more money will not attract more people to parties in residential college suites, and [they’re] definitely not a substitute for off-campus parties.”
Of the 12 residential colleges, members of five — either the college’s master or residents of the party suite — confirmed that some suites in the college receive or have received funding in the past to host social events. Two said that no such funding is provided, and five did not return request for comment or did not specify.
Both Branford College Master Elizabeth Bradley and Davenport College Master Richard Schottenfeld said their colleges provide social funding in order to promote a sense of community within the college. Bradley emphasized that while Branford does not support its party suite, the “God Quad,” as a “party suite per se,” it financially supports some approved events that the suite’s residents put on. Schottenfeld cited the vision statement that Davenport students drew up for their party suite, “The Cottage,” several years ago, which emphasizes that residents of the Cottage are expected to be leaders and role models in promoting college life.
But Timothy Dwight College Master Jeffrey Brenzel said the college does not provide funds to subsidize the parties of any particular suite, party suite or not. Still, both current and future potential residents of the Octet said the lack of funding is not a deterrent in their planning for social events or in their decisions to live there.
“I think the lack of funding doesn’t disincentivize people [from throwing parties], but receiving funding could incentivize people,” Ikiz said. “It would’ve incentivized our suite to throw parties thinking that we had some kind of approval from our college.”
Nate Gugenheim ’18, who is hoping to live in the Octet next year, agreed. Given extra support from the colleges, he added, the party suites could conceivably play host to fraternity parties and other typically off-campus events.
Other students disagreed about the ability of better-funded party suites to serve as a substitute for the off-campus social scene. Three of eight other students interviewed said on-campus events would never affect the popularity of off-campus events, and four said the effect of increased funding would be negligible.
Students and administrators also expressed differing opinions over whether greater promotion of on-campus parties would improve the safety of Yale’s party culture. Six of the eight students interviewed said on-campus parties are made safer by their familiar location and proximity to authority figures. Jonathan Edwards College Master Penelope Laurans cited her familiarity with the students hosting on-campus parties as a reason for her comfort with such events.
“I feel [the students hosting parties] have a clear understanding of what the dean and I value, what we think is important and of the sense of community we try to establish,” she said. “They know we want people to have fun — and they also know that we in turn expect parties to be thoughtfully planned and to have the right tone.”
Political Science professor Steven Smith said that during his tenure as master of Branford, from 1996 to 2011, he always worked closely with students in the God Quad to ensure that events were “safe, inclusive and, hopefully, legal.” He would sometimes drop by the events to play beer pong with the students, he added.
But other students said that supporting on-campus parties would not necessarily lead to any increase in campus safety.
“People who are throwing the parties, whether they’re at an off-campus spot or a campus suite, pretty much can do whatever they want,” said a resident of one of Yale’s party suites, who asked to remain anonymous because of his sensitive position. “I don’t think that giving more funding to campus suites would increase the [University’s] ability to supervise those parties or keep a healthy sexual climate.”
The student added that most of the sexual assaults that have happened and been publicized to the student body have taken place on campus.
Alcohol consumption is also higher on campus than off. According to data released by Yale’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm Reduction Initiative, 57 percent of high-risk drinking at Yale takes place in dorm rooms. In addition, off-campus events involving over 50 people are required to be registered with the University, just like on-campus events of such size.
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd said that location alone is never a sufficient predictor for the safety of a party.
“Right now, we have a powerful, overly simplistic cultural narrative that equates big off-campus parties with sexual danger,” she said. “Evaluating the safety of a party — of any event, for that matter — is much more complex than just looking at size or location … Too often, we assess safety based on stereotypes.”
Overall, Bradley said, whether or not increased University support for on-campus party suites would play any role in shaping the safety of campus drinking and party culture remains unclear.
“A lot really depends on the leadership of students who take on these roles of managing social events,” she said. “It is not easy, and it is not about financial support in my opinion. A safe and healthy social event begins with the tone, the preparation and the goals of the community giving the event.”
In the past, the residents of the God Quad and The Cottage have sometimes been selected by the rising senior class.