Courtesy of Hannah Turner

Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Yale aims to make students feel safer at parties by replacing the war on drugs with policies rooted in science, compassion and human rights.

Under the leadership of president Amanda Ivatorov ’24, SSDP has worked to distribute reusable drink-spiking prevention products called NightCaps — plastic lids that can be placed atop cups to provide an extra layer of protection between the drink and its environment. SSDP officially launched the initiative on Feb. 6, beginning with the introduction of 300 NightCaps to gauge student response to the NightCap technology and gather quantitative data to support its introduction on campus. 

On Feb. 7, SSDP began distributing NightCaps to interested students at popular spots around campus, such as Commons, Cross Campus and Bass Library.

“As students should have the right to decide what’s in their drink and to protect themselves, our ultimate goal is for Yale to provide every undergraduate student on campus with their own NightCap, eventually making them as accessible as condoms and COVID-19 masks,” Ivatorov told the News.

The project was inspired by Ivatorov’s personal experience. She recalled several of her friends’ drinks getting spiked at a party in her first year, despite all the “correct” measures being taken — including the standardized methods of bouncers checking for Yale IDs and requiring trained bartenders. Ivatorov felt that these harm-reduction measures were insufficient, leading her to seek out an additional layer of protection. 

The organization adamantly points out that, whether students opt for a drink with or without alcohol, spiking remains a high and substantiated risk. However, regardless of risk, such a large undertaking cannot be easily implemented without an investigation regarding the impacts and usage of the product in the campus environment.

SSDP molded the initiative into a pre-post-intervention survey project, guided by Tamar Taddei, a professor of Internal Medicine at Yale’s School of Medicine, and Lynn

Fiellin, a professor of General Medicine and former director of Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm Reduction Initiative.

Within the experiment, approximately 250-300 Yale undergraduates completed a quick “pre-intervention survey” upon entrance to the launch event. Then, a “post-intervention survey” will be used to gauge the shift or continuity of public perception in the months of April and May. 

“This pre-post-intervention type study allows us to assess the feasibility of implementing NightCaps on a larger scale,” Taddei wrote in an email to the News. “We are excited that [Ivatorov] has been able to parlay her community and public health interests and expertise into a research project that will inform our campus community.”

Ivaratov anticipates that as the intervention is utilized, the average feelings of safety will increase on the post-intervention survey when compared to those on the pre-intervention survey.

Such undertakings were made possible by Dwight Hall personnel Johnny Scafidi and Mark Fopeano, who have been involved in the development of the project from its original pitch in the spring of 2022. Major contributions were made to shape the goals of the project, find avenues for funding and garner student support. 

Amanda and SSDP leadership have done an extraordinary job of highlighting an area of concern, crafting a thoughtful response, and testing a model that is potentially scalable and replicable beyond the Yale campus,” Scafidi told the News. 

The pilot project is now fully covered by the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee of the Yale College Council and Dwight Hall.

Registration for the launch event, originally capped at 50 participants, sold out in five days, until it was later expanded to accommodate the growing interest. The final registration count for the NightCaps launch event reached 89 students, all of whom gathered in Dwight Hall on Monday evening. 

Brooklyn Brauner serves as a staff reporter for the City desk, covering Nonprofits and Social Services throughout New Haven, in addition to serving as the Thursday Newsletter Editor. Originally from Wisconsin, she is currently a sophomore in Grace Hopper College studying Political Science.