Though Harvard University Police Department Chief Francis “Bud” Riley acknowledged that students have been swapping rumors about a “draconian crackdown” on partying, he said Tuesday night that no student has been arrested this year for an alcohol violation and that HUPD has no plans to change its policy on enforcing laws against underage drinking.
At a panel on police presence and campus alcohol policy attended by about 30 students, Riley attributed the increased weekend policing to a need to be more visible and proactive in light of recent violent crimes and disruptions on campus and in final clubs.
“Rumors out there don’t seem to match with reality,” he said. “Our aim is to keep the abuse around here from affecting the neighborhood and safety of the students.”
In a span of five days over the summer, two stranger rapes—the first in 12 years—were reported on campus. Riley also said that at a meeting between HUPD and the graduate and undergraduate boards of finals clubs during the summer, the clubs expressed concerns about people unaffiliated with Harvard trying to get in their buildings.
Riley said that HUPD only plans to arrest partiers in cases of assault or destruction of property, not underage drinking.
“We don’t want students to be implicated in the criminal justice system unless it’s something really violent,” Riley said. “[HUPD officers are] not secret squirrels sneaking around to see who’s drinking beer.”
Though students can expect not to be arrested for drinking, Riley said that they can be reported to College administrators for walking outdoors with open containers of alcohol, which is illegal.
“We ask students to pour it out and take people’s name for review by the College,” he said.
Riley also responded to increased sightings of Cambridge police on campus, saying that they have jurisdiction over anything that happens in the city.
“If there is a noise complaint, the police have the right to intervene,” Riley said.
In addition to probing the likely legal recourse—or lack thereof—against underage drinkers, the panel also probed the College’s own alcohol policy, which was revised last spring.
Under the new guidelines, those of legal drinking age may sip on mixed drinks—alcoholic beverages containing hard liquor—at House formals.
Interim Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich highlighted some of the policy changes, saying that they are meant to help students socialize safely while looking out for the wellbeing of their peers.
According to the policy statement available on the Office of Student Life website, mixed drinks may be served with advance approval from the House Masters and the OSL, and the drinks must include non-alcoholic mixers and contain no more than one standard measure of alcohol.
Friedrich also added that only professional bartenders may mix and serve drinks, and that mixed drinks may only be offered for purchase or by limited drink ticket system.
The alcohol policy also emphasizes safety precautions, such as offering plentiful food and non-alcoholic beverages at parties, limiting the serving time of alcohol to no longer than five hours, and prohibiting activities that promote high-risk drinking—namely drinking games.
“You all are responsible adults,” Friedrich said. “The expectation is that you are going to look out for one another.”
—Staff writer Jane Seo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.