Faculty Pass New College-Wide Alcohol Policy

In a nearly unanimous decision, professors at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to adopt officially a new set of College-wide alcohol policies aimed to curb underage and high-risk drinking.

The revised regulations went into effect on a provisional basis last spring, according to FAS spokesperson Jeff Neal. Tuesday’s vote makes the new rules a permanent part of the Handbook for Students.

Though the new policies ban high-risk competitive drinking games and set out explicit guidelines for private parties and House events, they also loosen restrictions on the type of alcohol that can be served at House formals.

After a year-long ban on hard liquor at House formals, students over 21 can now enjoy mixed drinks along with beer and wine at formals. Hard liquor is still prohibited at other House social events and tailgates.

Although faculty present at the meeting expressed support for the changes, several questioned whether the new rules were doing enough to combat a culture of illegal and dangerous drinking at the College.

“The making of rules is not necessarily going to create adherence to them,” classics professor Richard F. Thomas said in an interview after the meeting. Nevertheless, he threw his support behind the new policies.

At the meeting, Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck also said that the new legislation alone may not be sufficient to change the drinking culture at Harvard. She said she thinks a second push to foster greater awareness of the consequences of high-risk drinking would make excessive alcohol consumption less attractive to students.

Eck described “chilling” HUPD reports of late-night encounters with inebriated students that are released weekly to House Masters—including the story of a student passed out on a pile of cardboard boxes and covered with vomit.

“Each incident cries out that this high-risk drinking—this drop-dead drinking—is really not cool, and it has lots of reverberations,” Eck said to her colleagues. “Why don’t we want this kind of information known to our students?”

Questions also remain about the often vague language of the new policies.

Administrators have declined to comment on whether the policy allows students to play beer pong. And at the Harvard College Governance Panel last week, Eck said that Undergraduate Council President Danny P. Bicknell ’13 and Vice President Pratyusha Yalamanchi ’13 came to a recent House Masters’ meeting to “talk about the need to maybe have a little clarification on the new alcohol policy.”

But Pforzheimer House Resident Dean Lisa Boes wrote in an email to The Crimson that she thinks the new policy empowers both students and administrators to work together to plan safe events involving alcohol. “I support this proposal because it is developmentally appropriate for 17-22 year olds,” Boes wrote. “It provides structure, communicates expectations, and asks students to be responsible for their behavior and one another in a community.”

Tuesday’s vote marks the culmination of a nearly two-year push by College administrators to crack down on underage and dangerous drinking at Harvard. Administrators have sought to include undergraduates throughout the decision-making process, but students have repeatedly proved unmotivated to engage.

Last fall, as an alcohol policy committee worked to craft the regulations that were approved on Tuesday, administrators held a series of sparsely attended meetings across campus to solicit student input about Harvard’s drinking culture. Then, after the regulations were released in March, administrators held three more meetings that drew a total of five students.

—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at rrobbins@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at kwu@college.harvard.edu.

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