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Yale's message in a bottle:
stop the binge drinking

The Yale College drinking data are in, and they are "alarming," the dean's office says.

Among students who drink, 62 percent report binge drinking, and "almost a quarter of them had blacked out" in the two weeks before they were surveyed. During the same two-week window, 13 percent missed a class because of drinking; "17 percent said they vomited, and 33 percent did something they later regretted."

Taken from anonymous surveys throughout the past two and a half years, "this data has, until now, been strictly confidential," says the Alcohol and Other Drug Harm Reduction Initiative, or AODHRI (pronounced Audrey), a branch of the Yale College Dean's Office.

"As the university moves into action, it’s becoming increasingly important to share it. Much of what we are learning flies in the face of common campus beliefs."

One such belief: that "high-risk drinking"—the kind implicated in alcohol poisoning, fistfights, and sexual assault—is a problem at party schools but not at academically rigorous institutions like Yale. In fact, Yale's rate of binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks in an evening for women and five or more for men, is significantly higher than the estimated 50 percent national average for college drinkers.

"These are alarming findings, and demand attention and action," AODRHI says.

In response, Yale College Dean Mary Miller ’81PhD recently announced five initiatives that will begin by this fall. They are:

  • "unifying the university’s approach" through a “centralized implementation committee”;
  • “clarifying and communicating policies and procedures,” especially about whether and how students will be punished when they’re drunk and need help;
  • “enhancing training and education" by building on "a well-received web-based alcohol education program for freshmen and a bystander intervention program for sophomores";
  • "supporting low- and no-alcohol events" for the 15 percent of Yalies who don't drink at all and the uncounted larger number who don't think fun depends on drunkenness; and
  • "engaging the entire community."

That last point suggests that Yalies needn't worry about strict prohibition any time soon.

"Most of all," Miller writes, "students have advocated for a campus culture that prepares them to thrive in adult life, confident in their ability to make choices for themselves. This approach goes to the heart of the university’s educational mission."


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under alcohol, Yale College
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