Updated November 9, 2010 at 3:08 a.m.
Tailgate as students currently know it has been canceled, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta confirmed Monday.
A minor, who was the guest of a student, was found unconscious in a Porta Potty at the end of the Nov. 6 Tailgate, said Chief John Dailey of the Duke University Police Department. A security officer found the teenager after most students had left Tailgate, and Emergency Medical Services was called to transport the teenager to the Duke Emergency Department, Dailey added.
Moneta confirmed that to the best of his knowledge the teenager is OK, adding that the minor was the sibling of a Duke student.
This incident was the “predominant deciding factor” for the decision to end Tailgate, Moneta said. The Tailgate that was originally scheduled for Nov. 13 has been suspended, and Tailgates in upcoming years will likely be very different, he added.
“Tailgate has become an embarrassment—it has no connection to our football team,” Moneta said in an interview Monday. “Now it has to end. I think the notion that a young teenager could be discovered under these conditions just crosses the line.”
Moneta sent an e-mail to the student body about the decision to end Tailgate around 10 p.m. Monday.
Following this “very scary incident,” Moneta said he met Monday afternoon with Duke Student Government President Mike Lefevre, a senior, and sophomore Chris Brown, DSG vice president for athletics and campus services.
“Although Tailgate is something that we all know and love... we really need to ask ourselves some questions about the event, about the culture surrounding it and look past the one pro everyone knows about—that it’s an event open to everyone,” Brown said.
In the Monday meeting with Moneta, Lefevre said he and Brown planned to tweak Tailgate policies by potentially eliminating the guest policy in light of this weekend’s incident.
“Larry was not interested in tweaking policies,” Lefevre said.
Administrators and students will use the Spring to devise a new policy for pre-football celebrations, Moneta said.
“I have committed to use the Spring... to develop a plan for... pre-football gatherings that preserve the kernel of value that Tailgate offered,” he said.
Lefevre said this year is his third year trying to save Tailgate “the way most students know it.”
“We knew there would be one incident that [would take] the fight out of us,” he said. “It wasn’t our idea [to suspend Tailgate], but I don’t have the heart to fight it.”
Although Brown said DSG considered creating an alternative event for Tailgate Saturday, DSG executive board members planned to contact students for feedback before planning any kind of immediate replacement.
Many students have expressed their desire to continue the Tailgate tradition. Some students created a Facebook event entitled “Main Quad Throwdown” that is set to take place Saturday morning. Approximately three hours after its creation around 10 p.m. Monday, more than 1,000 students were listed as attending the event, with about 4,400 guests awaiting reply.
Moneta gained the support of many administrators, including President Richard Brodhead, Provost Peter Lange, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask and Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White, in deciding to alter the nature of Tailgate. Moneta said these administrators were “totally, 100 percent” in favor of eliminating the event.
This does not mark the first time administrators have discussed changing Tailgate, however.
Duke’s version of Tailgate—which allowed student groups to bring in a car and cases of beer and was known for loud music and students spraying beer on each other—has elicited some controversy in the past.
In Spring 2009, administrators and student representatives from DSG and Duke University Union met to consider different possibilities in light of Tailgate safety concerns. Options included moving Tailgate to Main West Quadrangle or dispersing students throughout the Blue Zone.
Tailgate has also had safety issues in the past. At the fist Tailgate in 2009, there were nine EMS calls and six people were transported to the Emergency Department.
Many students have reacted negatively to the news of Tailgate’s suspension. In a June 2009 DSG survey of 1,326 undergraduates, 57 percent of respondents indicated that they have no problem with Tailgate.
Seniors were looking forward to the last Tailgate this weekend, senior Catherine Cordeiro said.
“I think it’s kind of harsh of [the administration] to not give us a last hurrah,” Cordeiro said. “I feel like the administration has been trying to get rid of Tailgate for some time. I would say that Tailgate is one of the primary reasons why I came to Duke, and I think it’s a major part of what makes the Duke social scene so unique.”