What Were They Drinking?

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Rachel M. Douglas

A balanced breakfast can be a dangerous thing.

Numbers can be tough, particularly when liquor gets involved.

Case in point: the Harvard University Police recently reported a 47-fold jump in liquor law violations on campus last year. Such a statistic might have made 2007 an exciting drinking/partying/bail-posting season—except that the number wasn’t true.

A “change in procedure” from oral to paper reporting meant House officials began tallying party-goers in their statistics, instead of merely those disciplined, said Robert Mitchell, a spokesman for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

“A person of authority would enter a party, and some of them or all of them might have been counting everyone at the party instead of everyone who had been disciplined,” Mitchell said. “That’s not the way it should be reported.”

So instead of 58 liquor, drug, and weapons violations on campus, there were 959.

While Mitchell said the “glitch in communication” would be fixed, an earlier exchange with HUPD spokesman Steven G. Catalano suggested that the area might need more work.

“Due to a change in reporting procedures the College experienced a substantial  increase in the number of liquor law violations reported,” Catalano wrote in an e-mail five days after being first asked about the spike.

And when pressed for clarification (“How did the procedures change?”), Catalano tersely refused to discuss the subject further.

“You have our complete statement on the matter,” he wrote in an e-mail. (Catalano has long refused to be interviewed over the phone by Crimson reporters.)

It’s enough to make us want to drink more, just as long as Harvard doesn’t make us another statistic.