Harvard's Alcohol Policies Under Review

As they plan modifications to Harvard’s current alcohol policy, College administrators will host a series of discussions aimed at generating student feedback on drinking at Harvard.

The first of these meetings was held in Winthrop JCR on Tuesday night and included students from Eliot, Kirkland, and Winthrop Houses. The discussion was attended by students, tutors, acting Winthrop Resident Dean Luke A. Leafgren, Eliot House Master Gail A. O’Keefe, and Dean of Student Life Suzy M. Nelson.

“We really want to make sure that we hear the voice of the student in this process,” Nelson said.

Discussions will be held with students from several Houses at a time. Freshmen will have a separate meeting in the Yard.

Student input from the meetings will be sent to an alcohol policy committee, which will draft a preliminary version of the updated policy. The policy will ultimately be sent to Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds for review and approval.

Nelson said that ideally the Office of Student Life will conclude student discussions by the spring semester and create a draft of the policy by next April.

The alcohol policy committee, composed of students and administrators and chaired by Cabot House Master Rakesh Khurana, was formed last year in conjunction with the College’s decision to reevaluate its current policies regarding drinking.

As the committee works to develop an updated policy, administrators have focused on enforcing current rules as well as enacting regulations that more strictly restrict alcohol consumption.

Last semester Hammonds sent a memo to House Masters asking that they focus on implementing current policy more consistently throughout the Houses. Hammonds’ initiatives had an immediate impact as Houses began designating “responsible adults” to serve drinks at House events and Pforzheimer House canceled its semiannual golf event—which involved drinks and food in students’ rooms throughout the House. Pfoho House Masters cited the inability to control who could drink and the game-like nature of the event in their House-wide email that explained the decision.

Around the same time the College mandated that only beer and wine—not hard alcohol—could be served at off-campus formals that semester.

But while the changes last year focused on enforcing the standing regulations, the alcohol conversations that the College will hold over the coming semester aim to generate student input for a potentially sweeping revision of the entire policy.

Nelson said that the College was interested in reevaluating the current alcohol policy in the context of creating a healthy social scene, while recognizing that Harvard is not above the law.

Tuesday’s meeting touched upon many aspects of Harvard’s drinking culture, from drinking games, to party forms, to legality issues surrounding drinking at college.

“The willingness of the administration to listen to what we as students have to say gives me confidence,” said Ari L. Rubin ’13, a vocal participant in the conversation who proposed, among other things, allowing students to engage in safe drinking in House common spaces. “I look forward to the day when I’m able to drink a beer in the JCR.”

—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at hrouse@college.harvard.edu.

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