(This is the first of two articles on the increasing use of drugs in the Yard, the University's concern, and what it is doing about it. Today's article focuses on the extent of drug use among freshmen, tomorrow's will tell what actions the University has taken already and plans to take in the future.)
Drug use in the Yard appears to be increasing, and proctors, the police, the Health Services, and the Administration are becoming more and more concerned about it.
"More freshmen than ever seem to be smoking pot and taking LSD," one proctor said. "The increase since last year is enormous."
Just how widespread drug use has become is hard to say. There are no statistics on the subject, and reliable ones would be nearly impossible to get. But discussions with students, proctors, and psychiatrists indicate that 25 to 30 per cent of the class has smoked pot at least once. Estimates run from 10 to 70 per cent.
One reason for the discrepancy is that users seem to be concentrated in pockets around the Yard. In some entries all but two or three freshmen have tried marijuana at least once, while in others there is no knowledge of use at all.
Far, fewer students take LSD, and here too predictions are far from reliable. But five per cent is a figure that nearly everyone agrees on.
Marijuana is more popular for several reasons. Freshmen have the impression that it is "safe," that the laws against its use are ridiculous and unenforced. There is also an idea that the Administration views pot as it does liquor. That is wrong. The University has strong rules against the use of drugs, but it hesitates to make public statements about them.
Pot, freshmen also believe, is not as harmful as LSD. Everyone knows stories of people going crazy after a bad trip, but marijuana comes off mild. It is also far more accessible.
Where do the freshmen get it? Most of them buy not from friends, personal contacts or people in their entry. Some of these sellers are benevolent souls who just want their friends to have a fine experience and sell the drugs very cheaply. Others make fantastic profits from their sales and have been known to pay their tuition or buy stereo sets with what they get.
The Yard sellers in turn get their marihuana from large suppliers in Cambridge. A typical one is a 22-year-old who dropped out of Harvard after his freshman year. He shifted around Cambridge doing odd jobs until a friend of his from New York told him about the pot market. Now the friend supplies the Cambridge seller with pot from what is probably a large New York organization, which gets the stuff from Mexico.
It is clear that drugs are more accessible now in the Yard than they used to be. Marihuana has even be- come, a popular topic for dining room prattle. Things are out in the open, and the nature of drugs makes them nearly epidemic. There is a language that drug people speak. People don't want to be left out, especially freshmen, who are having a difficult time simply getting adjusted to Harvard.
"They are afraid of losing their friends," one proctor said. "And when they see their friends taking drugs, they feel pressured to do it too, even if they don't especially want to. That is one of the real dangers of the increase in freshman drug taking. It is simply too insecure a period to start doing it."
Drug-taking seems to be starting even before freshmen come to Harvard, and that could account in great measure for the increase. There are indications that large prep schools are the original source.
The problem of freshman drug use is not limited to Harvard. Two weeks ago freshman counselors at Yale began warning their advisees of the dangers of smoking marihuana. Known users were reportedly called into the dean's office.
At Sarah Lawrence the college administration has become increasingly concerned about freshmen smoking marihuana. There are estimates that 20 per cent are using pot there.
At these two schools the fear is that outside authorities will invade the campus and arrest users if the colleges do nothing about it. That is what happened at Princeton several months ago and it rated a full-scale scandal headline on the front page of the New York Daily News.