The College wrapped up a series of meetings on Harvard’s drinking culture Tuesday night with a conversation in the Dunster JCR that included administrators, tutors, and students.
The meetings, designed to solicit student input as the College works to update its alcohol policies, have been poorly attended by students. Low turnout has raised concerns for some students at the meetings, who have questioned whether the small sampling is representative of broader attitudes on campus toward alcohol.
At a meeting between Adams and Quincy students, Adams House Committee Co-Chair Collin A. Rees ’12 pointed out that the participants—mostly Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisors, Undergraduate Council representatives, and HoCo members—might not be a representative sample of the spectrum of student attitudes.
“There was a very distinct set of people here and all viewpoints weren’t represented,” Rees said. “I don’t think we saw much of the drinking side or partying sides of Harvard.”
A freshman-specific meeting in the Yard attracted six students—four of whom were freshman Undergraduate Council representatives. Tuesday’s audience was full of DAPA and HoCo members who skirted sensitive issues as administrators guided the conversation with their own questions and opinions.
A Dunster tutor who attended Tuesday’s meeting characterized the discussion as “representative of the responsible drinking culture.”
“But I don’t think it had much of the drinking voice,” the tutor said.
Only seven students were in attendance Tuesday, following the larger trend of a lackluster attendance at the alcohol discussions.
The first alcohol conversation attracted enough students to fill the Winthrop Junior Common Room. The participants were candid and enthusiastic enough about the topic to push the discussion more than 30 minutes over its allotted meeting time.
But since then, meetings have last the allotted time and attendance has dwindled. The Adams/Quincy, Leverett/Dunster, Cabot/Currier/Pfoho, and freshman-specific meetings drew less than 10 students each.
Students and House administrators at all meetings have praised the focus on student-feedback that led to the conception of the alcohol discussions. They asked that the College host more meetings in order to hear more student perspectives.
For now, however, the College says it is done with the alcohol discussions.
The extent to which feedback from the conversations will shape the modified alcohol policy—and the final form that policy will take—is up to the handful of students and administrators that make up the alcohol policy committee.
“What we’re trying to do is be very open to listening to students, especially since people have very different perspectives on the issue of alcohol,” said Rakesh Khurana, Cabot House Master and chair of the alcohol policy committee. “We think that’s one of the first steps to take in order to make sure that we have a policy that is both responsible and workable, but always with the goal in mind of our students’ well being. And that is where we’re coming from, is making sure that nobody gets hurt.”
—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.