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THE ORAL HISTORY OF TAILGATE

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SAVING THE TRADITION

As Tailgate continued, so did changes to the University’s regulations year by year. Moneta and Dean Sue were the public faces of those changes, dealing with student groups such as Duke Student Government and the Interfraternity Council to ensure the event’s safety. In September 2005, four students were arrested at an off-campus party after a Tailgate. In 2006, the administration briefly disassociated itself from Tailgate after threatening to completely shut it down. By the next season, they were funding Tailgate once again and providing students with food and water. They also tried to spread Tailgate out among different lots in the Blue Zone, another short-lived change.

Pahsa Majdi (Trinity ’05, 2004-05 DSG president): There were a few incidents my senior year. There was underage drinking, and people drinking to excess. As a result, the momentum was pushing toward canceling the whole thing. We basically stepped in asked for the healthy conversation, an airing of grievances and just had a talk and said, “All these points are valid. All of your concerns are valid. We share the same concerns, what can we do to fix this? Let’s work together.” To their credit, Dean Sue and Dr. Moneta were very forthcoming and did everything they could to be cooperative. The student government and Office of Student Affairs worked to clean it up.

"Dean Sue and I would inevitably look at each other and say, ‘We survived one more.’ It was an act of survival: nobody got killed right then and there." — Moneta

Elliott Wolf (Trinity ’08, 2006-07 DSG president, Chronicle columnist): Tailgate in many respects was my greatest triumph, keeping it. They tried to cancel it in 2006 in the aftermath of lacrosse. More accurately, Larry Moneta tried to cancel it in 2006.

Moneta: [Attempts to regulate Tailgate] were all futile. They all helped at the front end but never helped at the back end. One segment of the population would drink aggressively, and that was not the majority crowd. It never was. Once the folks who were not capable of managing their alcohol got drunk, the whole thing deteriorated.

Longenecker: They had a certain number of cases per car, and then in my last year they had Tailgate Monitors where they had prominent students, like presidents of fraternities, wear this bright yellow shirt and be Tailgate monitors. The whole idea was to have some visibility of “Yeah, people are watching so don’t get too crazy.” But I was a Tailgate Monitor, and I still partook in the festivities. It was just a party responsibly kind of thing.

Moneta: The hottest T-shirts were Tailgate Monitor shirts. We’d have people offer us $100 because it was this big collector item.

Alleva: It was a big campus issue for Larry Moneta and Sue Wasiolek. I think people made a much bigger deal out of it than what it should’ve been. Frankly, I didn’t spend much time thinking about it or worrying about it. I had a whole lot of bigger things to worry about than that.

"I’d like to think, if needed to, I’d be able to present 1,000 things I’ve done on behalf of students compared to the one thing I’ve done to deprive them. Someone is the school principal and carries the role of being the bad guy." — Moneta

Wolf: It was a weird, funny situation for me, dealing with this prerogative of IFC, this complete shitshow and me not being frat-tastic. I was a math major. In retrospect, I think that helped me credibly negotiate with the administration. Because this math major was the one asking, it is not wholly incongruent with high academic standards.

Dean Sue: I attended virtually every single Tailgate. For the first hour to hour and a half of Tailgate, it was actually a lot of fun. For the morning games, students would go to Bojangles and bring biscuits, eat some breakfast. For the later afternoon games, they might bring some chicken. But then, once the level alcohol consumption really got out of control, the atmosphere changed completely. It went from being fun and safe to being just somewhat intimidating.

Moneta: This is going to be the grandfather in me talking: I wondered how many sexual assaults came from [Tailgate]. I wondered how much victimization there was. I would cringe at watching some of the drunk women in particular.

Ferguson: Larry Moneta is always villainized. He’s just kind of the perennial fill-in whenever a decision is made at Duke. Dean Sue was kind of everyone’s friend, out at Tailgate every Saturday.

Alleva: I don’t think they handled it very well at all, to be honest with you. I think they way overreacted. I think their overreaction to it made students want to do it more. They more they harped on it and the more they dwelled on it, students wanted to do it more.

Levine: Most students did see them as raining on the parade. From a public sentiment perspective, I think people were upset because there was less flexibility to engage in what we thought was a good tradition. From an IFC negotiation perspective, I always found them always trying to work with us, trying to allow us to devise a solution that worked with both sides.

Wolf: We had worked out a situation with parking whereby they would tow all of the cars in Guam because we didn’t want any damage to happen to anyone’s car. Once a senior forgot to move his car and parking didn’t tow it. Then a bunch of fraternity members and Naval Academy cadets colonized it. They were dancing in the back, dancing on the roof, dancing on the hood. They did quite a bit of damage to the car. We were very sensitive to any event that could be a pre-text for getting rid of Tailgate. I actually knew pretty well the person whose car it was, and he came to me.

This was just when Facebook photos were coming online, and we had a bunch of Facebook photos of who was on the car, and we could track them back to various greek organizations. So I got all of the IFC presidents in the DSG office and told them to pick up a collection. They paid for everything.

We called it the Golden Truck Incident. I sent very threatening emails to IFC and they responded really quickly, and then they started narking on each other. We took some pictures of the money exchange because there were several thousand dollars involved.

Moneta: I have a thick skin. You can’t do these jobs without a thick skin. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. I can still encounter a comment when I’m walking somewhere for some dastardly deed I’ve obviously done. But, it comes with the territory. I’d like to think, if needed to, I’d be able to present 1,000 things I’ve done on behalf of students compared to the one thing I’ve done to deprive them. Someone is the school principal and carries the role of being the bad guy.

Wolf: I remember yelling at Moneta in the middle of Alpine. We were just sitting at Alpine, and it got a little heated. In retrospect, I was fighting for Tailgate because I was supposed to fight for Tailgate. When you’re the DSG president, at least the way I envisioned the role, you’re supposed to fight for whatever students want to do.


11/06/2013 Tailgate History Duke Student Publishing Co. Duke Chronicle

We managed to save it by more or less going around Larry Moneta. He said there was going to be no Tailgate, but other administrators weren’t really on board with that. All we really needed was a parking lot, Porta-Potties and cooperation from the police.

Moneta: We were getting extremely worried that we were going to be held liable for all of this underage drinking. So at one point we said, if we can’t get students to self regulate, we’re going to walk away from it. Students can own it themselves, leaving Duke protected to some degree. But that didn’t last very long until we said two things: One, it’s on our property—we’re going to be liable no matter what. Two, it’s just ethically wrong. If it’s going to happen on campus, we have to continue to find a way to try and make it work.

Wolf: I knew Moneta pretty well through my work with The Chronicle, and so I was negotiating with him pretty much all summer. He was like “No, no, no, no it will not happen.” And then campus services actually came through with it. What it came down to was back then we could credibly threaten that if there were no organized Tailgate, students would show up in the Blue Zone any way. The parking situation was such that anybody could pay $5 to park. I more or less threatened to the effect of, “We can have it near the Iron Dukes or you can quarantine it.” The police, especially wanted it quarantined, so we landed on “Guam,” which is the lot closest to Towerview. That happened almost entirely without Moneta, it was almost completely over his objections. It went off, and it was fine. It was the embarrassing, stupid event that it always was, but there weren’t any major, major problems.

Moneta: Duke students love a group thing: LDOC, K-Ville. I don’t deny that, and I never wanted to be the party killer in terms of the wonderful opportunity to celebrate as a group. But inevitably, a small percentage of the population destroyed it for everyone else. So we tried every way from Sunday to tailor it.

Wolf: We were old enough and responsible enough that we should be trusted enough to behave somewhat responsibly and if there were any real problems the police could get involved.

Moneta: There were these music wars going on, and there would be some dancing, which would be fun, and good, but eventually the dancing and the music and the drinking would evolve into a total mosh pit. What was frightening was if there were someone in the middle of that who maybe had too much to drink or got injured, it was really frightening to think how we were going to provide any help and support to that person.

You had this line of urinals, but you’d be constantly dealing with people urinating in the bushes. As an older grandfather type, I’d go, “There’s some privacy over here.” Then we’d deliberately move the Porta-Potties to block views. You can’t think about how much time we put into trying to control sightlines so nobody could see what was going on in there.

Lefevre: Paul [Slattery, Trinity ’08, DSG president 2007-08,] and Elliot [Wolf] would stand out on the Plaza and smoke cigars on campus, all hours of the day. They were totally aloof, did their own thing, but somehow every student felt like they were represented by those guys. I remember Paul sent an email and said to go out there and have fun at Tailgate, behave, and whatever you do, please don’t throw beer cans—what a waste of beer. When I saw that, I thought, ‘There’s a president who understands the balance between having fun and supporting that, and knowing that you’ll never win if you try and tell students to be responsible and behave.’

Wolf: Because I was so involved in the negotiations to make sure Tailgate stayed, I was very interested in having nothing bad happening. So I was actually going patrolling, and I’m a pretty big guy at 6-foot-4. The other thing is because the DSG president is so close to the administration they get courtesy invitations to President Brodhead’s box in the football stadium. Once upon a time before they made everyone leave at kickoff, I had left at kickoff to go to the President’s box, so I was all dressed up.

Then suddenly I get a call from one of my guys saying a fight is about to break out, and I should come as quickly as possible. I bolted from the football stadium and made it to Guam... and these two guys were going at it and punching each other. I ripped one of them off the other one, and then he started to try and fight me. Luckily, I was certainly recognizable on campus for having fought the good fight for Tailgate, and he was an IFC member, and when he realized it was me, he just cowered and apologized. I just said, ‘Get the fuck out of here.’ Then I tucked my shirt in and went back to President Brodhead’s box.

Dean Sue: It created such a contentious environment, even between students and administrators who worked together on a regular basis. On that Saturday of Tailgate, something different happened in that relationship, it just went in a very different direction.

Brodhead: For me, it’s pretty simple. When you came you learned Duke had this problematic tradition. The positive was people love to be together with each other. But there’s always a downside, which was no matter what you did about it, it always degenerated into a scene of anarchy and physical danger. And we tried and tried and tried, year after year after year putting different measures into place to keep that from happening because you couldn’t have the good part of it if it would always degenerate into the horrible dangerous part of it.

Moneta: At every Tailgate, when it ended, Dean Sue and I would inevitably look at each other and say, ‘We survived one more.’ It was an act of survival: nobody got killed right then and there.

THE END

Tailgate was cancelled in the fall of 2010 after a 14-year-old sibling of a student was found passed out in a Porta-Potty following the Tailgate for Duke’s 55-48 win against Virginia. Tailgate, though, was just one way Duke’s social scene was thrust into the spotlight that year. A former Duke student, Karen Owen, Trinity ’10, made a Powerpoint presentation detailing and rating her sexual experiences with a variety of Duke athletes, and the document went viral in Fall 2010. Duke’s greek life was also under examination after crude emails from fraternities were sent to women on campus. In October, Drew Everson, a then senior, died after falling down a set of stairs on East Campus in an alcohol-related incident.

Moneta: I would show up early, an hour before Tailgate began, and then I would stay for a while, drift over to the president’s house where he’d have lunch before the football game, then I’d drift back to Tailgate. And as the party at the president’s house was moving into the stadium, I’d be going back and forth. And once we were in the stadium, and the Tailgate was over, I would generally walk by him and after a number of years it would just be a thumbs up: we survived. The first year I probably gave him a formal briefing, by the second year it was just eye contact: I’d roll my eyes, and we survived.

Lefevre: At that point it was a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, I do feel like we had mastered Tailgate right at the time it got shutdown.

Dean Sue: I think I got the call at the game. I think what happened is that Duke Police found the 14-year-old, or Duke Police was involved with that. Whoever was on call that day was notified, and the person on call called me and let me know. I was horrified. I hoped that the 14-year-old was going to be okay.

Moneta: It took me 10 seconds to say, “This is done.” I absolutely, unequivocally, the second I heard we had a minor passed out in a Porta-Potty. I turned to Dean Sue and said, “I’m done.” I sent an email out to President Brodhead, Provost [Peter] Lange and a handful of people saying, “I just wanted to let you know that I intend to terminate Tailgate. If you disagree, let me know.”

Brodhead: The patience of this University in trying to find ways to keep the tradition, to protect the tradition from itself, to protect the valuable form from the non-valuable form was remarkable. Finally the day came, we had this event, when you just had to say, “You’ve got to stop kidding ourselves. This is something the University cannot sponsor or turn a blind eye to or the University will certainly be responsible if the all-too-likely-outcome is ever reached.” So it had to be stopped.

Moneta: Eventually the first emotion was did we lose somebody? The second was thank god we didn’t. The third was I’m done with this. Probably all happened in about three seconds in my head at the same time.

Brodhead: You’re never going to say, “Oh what’s the problem, the person didn’t die,” and wait until they do.

Lefevre: They didn’t find the non-student until after the Tailgate was over, so there was no drama—everyone was gone. I’m sure I got an email or call some time that night saying here’s what happened after you left.

Dean Sue: When that happened on that Saturday afternoon, we knew then and it became more formal at the beginning of the following week that all the efforts we had made, all the efforts students had made to create a fun, safe event I guess in many ways just failed. Given all that time and work and effort, and yet to have that happen, we just couldn’t tolerate the continuance of Tailgate anymore. We had tried everything. I believe the students had tried everything. It just didn’t work.

Lefevre: Shortly before that a student had died on campus, Drew Everson. He was a fraternity brother of mine, one of my housemates, but also just a popular, well-liked kid. He drank a lot, came back from the bars on Main Street one night and fell down a set of stairs on East Campus. So he died from the injuries from falling, and that was clearly an alcohol-related death. It shook a lot of people, and it certainly shook me because I lived with him.

Brodhead: He was a wonderful guy.

Lefevre: So he’s about to graduate, very smart guy, very well-liked and he seemed to be in every club: Inside Joke, Debate and everything. At that point we all said, “Man, we all knew this kid liked to drink and party, but we never thought it would end like that.” We all thought it was the harmless drinking and partying, which is what everybody does.

There were all the signs he was on a dangerous path, but we didn’t do anything about it. So then this happened for Tailgate, and the 14-year-old was passed out in a bathroom. I certainly thought and I imagine a lot of people thought this was our second chance. This is the kind of moment where we could have all been standing around wishing we had a second chance to save that 14-year-old kid’s life.

Brodhead: The 14-year-old hadn’t just passed out. The 14-year-old had been left in an outhouse passed out by a sibling who had gone on without even knowing it. That sibling didn’t deserve for the sibling to still be alive.

Lefevre: Tailgate has always been dangerous, how come we didn’t see this coming? Fortunately, we did get that second chance. I don’t know how much that resonated with everyone else, but it certainly resonated strongly with me. To be honest, it resonated very strongly with Larry Moneta. He had known Drew very well, and Larry and I had been on the phone countless nights trying to resolve what was going on with Drew when he was in a coma before he finally passed away—how we were going to communicate that news to his friends and the student body, what sort of services we’d do. Larry was very involved in the business of Drew, and I think he was very moved by it. Even if it didn’t affect the student body, it certainly affected Larry.

Moneta: We found people passed out under cars. What if we hadn’t found that person? What if they had more to drink and asphyxiated when they were under the car? We know people were driving away drunk. We know people were arriving drunk. For some of the hardcore drinkers, if there was a noon game, and the tailgating was going to start at nine, we know people who stayed up all night drinking and arrived drunk. There’s no question we dodged multiple bullets.

Wolf: On some level, given how close we came in 2006, I knew it was inevitable. I’m surprised it came that quickly.

I was more expecting the death by 1,000 cuts for Tailgate, and that day when it was so restricted day-by-day over time that it would fade into nothing. But it instead went out with this bang.

Moneta: Every year I’d say to Dean Sue and others that I don’t get it. I don’t want [Alcohol Law Enforcement] to show up, but I’m shocked they’re not here and that local news media wasn’t here. Every week I’d think, “Oh Christ, the local news media is going to come and showcase all of this.”

For some reason, on the list of bullets dodged, we dodged media. Today it would be viral. We couldn’t get away with this today because it would be all over YouTube. You can Google YouTube now and find some videos. But it would be far more prominent in terms of Vimeos, Vines, Instagrams. There would be far more photographic evidence that it would be far more public than it was then. But even then, that we didn’t have the local media or that ALE didn’t come, or any number of ways this could have been interrupted from the outside.

Lefevre: The biggest shame was [Pi Kappa Phi] had just gotten an alumni donation and bought this incredible sound system. It was like a seven-power speaker, and it would’ve blown the Blue Zone to Chapel Hill. Then they cancelled Tailgate.

Dean Sue: I would’ve loved to find a way to make it work. Knowing what I know now, I would say the writing was on the wall earlier. We just didn’t really want to give up. But knowing what I know now, or looking back at it now with a fresh, new perspective, I think it would’ve made sense to cancel it earlier.

Moneta: Then it was about going through the process of validating that everybody would agree with me and I would be supported.

I’m not unwilling to stick my neck out, but I wanted to know that I wouldn’t be second guessed. Universally I got great support from everybody. I’d say my email traffic was 5-to-1 supportive.

Lefevre: I met with Larry Moneta on that Monday, and it was somehow clear when I went into that meeting that it was it. Usually the DSG President goes into a meeting with Larry Moneta ready for a fight. So he opens up and says, “Here’s why Tailgate can’t happen” and the president fires back with, “Here’s why getting rid of Tailgate is worse than keeping it.” But that time I knew it was over. I just knew. He didn’t have to say much. He looked at me and said, “As you can clearly understand, Tailgate is over.” He had already spoken to Brodhead, and Brodhead had agreed so there was none of the usual, “We’ll put an alcohol limit, or we’ll take cars away.” It was just over.

Brodhead: It’s what it is. It’s a chapter of history.

Wolf: Fifteen years ago there was Tailgate, and there were kegs on the quad. I think Tailgate was the last vestige of all of that. It wasn’t so much that Tailgate that died so much as old Duke.

Moneta: The old Tailgate—rest in peace.

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