Increased Use of Marijuana at Harvard Brings Response From Administrative Board
Before this year, the University had simply seen no evil and heard no evil. But this year it opened its eyes and ears and did something-or perhaps just put on a show of doing something. Why it did is hard to say.
As anyone who reads the mass media or listens to popular radio stations knows full well, this was the year when drugs come out into the open and made the Big Time.
Of course people were using drugs (mainly marijuana and LSD) before, but never before could you drop by a record store and find racks of psychedelic records, by groups like the Mothers of Invention and the Grateful Dead. Never before could you go down to The Boston Tea Party (get the name) and see the show and watch it happen in the corner. And more than that, never before could you eat at the Freshman Union and hear them talking grass right there in the open.
This was the year when drugs hit the Big Time at Harvard too, when people began to acknowledge that there was an upsurge in the use of drugs on campus, especially in the Freshman Class. And this was the year when Dean Monro broke the University's customary silence on the matter.
In a letter addressed to the "Gentlemen of 1970." Monro in his foot-stamping style said. "If a student is stupid enough to misuse his time here fooling around will illegal and dangerous drugs, our view is that he should leave the college ...."
He explained later that the Administrative Board, which disciplines drug abusers, didn't really mean it was going to kick students out of school for simply using marijuana. The punishment would probably be academic probation, he said. Still, it was clear that the University was not fooling around. And even though the crack-down that druggies had been worried about all Spring never happened (as it did at Yale, Princeton, and Cornell, for instance), the Administration seemed to loom larger as still another menace both to casual joint smokers and to full-time acidheads.
Before this year, the University had simply seen no evil and heard no evil. But this year it opened its eyes and ears and did something--or perhaps just put on a show of doing something. Why it did is hard to say.
Quite a few observers thought that the Monro Doctrine (as the Record American christened it) and the five-page medical report from the University Health Services that accompanied it were the result of outside pressure on the University to do something about drug abuse in the Yard. The press and maybe the alumni, they said, are forcing Monro to take a stand against drugs once and for all, and Monro must respond to get Harvard off the hook. Or, just as likely, they said, the cops and the feds are planning a big raid on the University, and Monro wants to clean the place up to spare Harvard the bad publicity that would result from the bust.
No Outside Threat
But that kind of fear does not usually motivate Harvard administrators. And even if it could, there was really no threat. Cambridge police chief Daniel J. Brennan told the City Council that drug traffic in the Square is no worse than it is anywhere else in the City, and that his one-man narcotics squad was sufficient to take care of the problem. The Council voted him a few extra men for the drug squad, anyway, but the Cambridge police's attitude did not appear belligerent toward the University at all. The area's one agent from the Federal Narcotics Bureau never warned Monro about controlling drug traffic at Harvard either.
Still, somewhere in the back of Monro's head there was probably the idea that what happened at those other Ivy colleges might happen here. At Princeton the dean, informed by the authorities to clean his own house or they would do it for him, called the known drug users there to his office and told them to "throw the stuff in the river" or there would be trouble. Some did, but seven were arrested, and the New York Daily News had a field day.
Certainly, Monro was being pressured to state clearly and publicly the University's position on drugs. But the pressure was coming from the inside, not from the outside. F. Skiddy von Stade Jr. '38, dean of freshmen, wanted something done. So did some Masters on the Administrative Board. Monro's attitude had been that a letter might cut off communication between the College and the drug users. But there was not much communication anyway.
Proctors and students began to ask the dean for a clarification of the University's policy. There were many freshmen who thought that Harvard just looked the other way, like it does with liquor. They thought that since there had been no stories in the Crimson of students punished for using pot or LSD and no mention in the rule book of drugs, that maybe the University didn't mind.
In the end, Monro gave in. He may have been leery of the Boston papers turning his letter into another blow-up like the 1963 sex scandal. But he wrote it anyway, in no uncertain terms (Though perhaps, as some have said with some uncertain logic. Why say drugs are a "waste of time"? Isn't drinking or partying a "waste of time" too?). "It was pure Monro," one Administration official said.
What caused all the concern this year was the simple fact that drug use was on the rise among freshmen, and significantly. It was increasing among upperclassmen too, but since the Houses are spread all over, the degree of use was difficult to estimate.
Dean von Stade states that there has been an increase, and some proc- tors who have been in the Yard with other freshman classes have called the rise "enormous." Graham Blaine, chief of psychiatry for the UHS, said in the middle of April that pot use was on the upsurge--a reversal of his appraisal earlier in the year.
Dana Farnsworth, head of the UHS and co-author of the medical report on drugs, tagged the amount of marijuana use in the University at 15 percent. Interviews with proctors, students, and UHS psychiatrists indicate that Farnsworth's estimate is probably low. Two extensive surveys at Yale have put the percentage there at 25 to 30 per cent. And at Princeton, a Press Club survey showed 15 per cent use.
Earlier Drug Use
The main reason for the increase, both here and elsewhere, seems to be that students are using drugs earlier. They are starting in high school or prep school and are coming to Harvard with contacts already made at home or in Boston. They know where to get the stuff and some of them come to Harvard all set to sell it. Since most drugs are obtained from friends or entry companions, the more there are with drugs on hand, the easier it is for other students to pick them up.
One big freshman seller (who retired at the end of the year) made enough money to buy a television set. But most of the students do it as a favor and don't make much profit off their sales. The ones who do are the larger dealers in the Cambridge area (some of them former Harvard students), who in turn get drugs from New York and, ultimately, from Mexico.
But even though this traffic was going on, the Administration did not find out about much of it until February, when three Holworthy freshmen were turned in by a friend to their senior adviser. The adviser shook them from their sleep the next morning and grilled them on their activities at an M.I.T. pot party the night before. The students were badly shaken by the third-degree treatment, but the Ad Board took no action against them. No one had actually seen them smoking.
The Administration, in turn, was badly shaken by the sudden revelation that such things were going on. They knew there was more, but there had been only one other case the whole year. Von Stade was especially distressed.
There was another incident, even larger than the Holworthy one, that occurred at the same time among a group of five or six Radcliffe freshmen in Holmes Hall. Their activities had been revealed by another student, too. But they had been involved in more frequent trysts, and they were happening in the dorm itself. The North House dean had several of them sent to UHS psychiatrists--a common remedy or punishment for drug offenders.
There is far less use of LSD than marijuana at Harvard. Farnsworth says usage is at around five per cent, and most proctors and students agree. Perhaps because some of its bad effects are so well publicized, LSD is certainly not found in abundance at Harvard. One freshman may have told why when he said, "I used acid a lot before I came here, and I'm going to use it next year when I leave. But there's no sense using it here. I'd just be flipped out all the time. I wouldn't want to go to classes or do anything. There's no sense using it here."
It is doubtful that either the Monro letter or the Farnsworth report will change the attitudes of many students on drugs. Dean von Stade and others have feared that freshmen, who come to Harvard often alone and without friends, are easily coerced into taking drugs when they are approached by new acquaintances. The Monro letter will at least give them more reason to say no, von Stade said.
Form of Rebellion
But others, to whom drugs are a simple form of rebellion, saw the Monro statement as just another expression of the intolerant and wholly ridiculous attitude of the older generation. The Farnsworth statement, too, appeared intemperate, just filled with scary stories and no facts to back up anything. A teaching fellow, who helped write the narcotics section of the President's Crime Report, attacked the medical report in a letter to the Crimson. The Farnsworth Report says "marijuana produces significant dependence, to a serious degree" and can "of course, lead into addiction to narcotics." The President's Report disagrees with both arguments.
One freshman told his proctor, "If they have to make up all these stories about car accidents and the lacing of pot with stronger stuff, I'm convinced that there is no case against marijuana. They're grasping at straws."
Of course there is one very good case against pot--it is illegal, very illegal. Possession can mean up to five years in prison, and in Colorado a person can be executed for selling drugs to minors, on the second offense. The University may not approve of the drug laws, but it has to enforce them. In fact, it often keeps outsiders from enforcing them--that is the advantage Harvard has.
A Boston attorney challenged the marijuana laws this May in Suffolk Superior Court on the grounds that pot is neither harmful nor addictive. He seems to have a good case. Dr. Norman Zinberg of Harvard cites in a recent article in The Public Interest several reports--Allentuck and Bowman, Murphy, and LaGuardia--which contend that pot is harmless.
What is needed, Zinberg says, is more research; then an unbiased, unmoralistic appraisal of drugs should be made. The laws as they stand now serve as a fine deterrent to any kind of debate and any kind of study. That may be how authorities want it, the situation is unlikely to stay that way much longer.
Drug use, at Harvard and across the country, will probably continue to increase next year. The Narcotics Bureau--a remnant of Prohibition--has asked for more men to work on marijuana. Even if it gets them, arrests will be sporadic at best. Harvard, understandably, is not ready to take the lead in getting the laws changed. The University will be better off going back to the head-in-the-sand approach until either drug use subsides or the laws are changed. And that seems to be just what Harvard will do next year.
The main reason for the increase, both here and elsewhere, seems to be that students are using drugs earlier. They are starting in high school or prep school and are coming to Harvard with contacts already made at home or in Boston.