Low Turnout at Discussion of New Alcohol Policy

A total of five students turned out to discuss the College’s new alcohol policy at a series of three meetings this week.

According to Dean of Student Life Suzy M. Nelson, three undergraduates came out to a meeting in Pfhorzheimer House on Monday, while two students showed up to a meeting in Boylston Hall on Wednesday. A third and final meeting in Eliot House on Thursday evening drew no students at all.

The College invited undergraduates to this week’s meetings in a March 30 email to the student body announcing its new, largely unchanged regulations for on-campus drinking, which will go into effect next fall.

Although Nelson said she was unsure why so few undergraduates had attended the meetings, she said she thought the students who did show up were “generally happy with the process and outcome.”

The College had originally intended to consider making further changes to the policy based on the feedback they received from students at the meetings.

But Nelson said that due to the positive response of those few undergraduates who did attend, the policy will likely be presented in its current form to the faculty next fall to be approved as an addition to the student handbook.

Although this draft of the policy will see no further changes based on student input, Nelson defended the College’s cumulative efforts to listen to undergraduate voices, saying she thought “students will agree that this was an inclusive process.”

The meetings were part of a year-long effort by the College to solicit student feedback about Harvard’s drinking culture. As the alcohol policy committee—composed of students and administrators—drafted a new policy over the past year, the College hosted seven meetings for students last fall. When these meetings saw low turnout, the College launched an online survey for students in February.

Nelson, who co-chaired the alcohol policy committee with Cabot Co-House Master Rakesh Khurana, said she was not disappointed by the low turnout at the meetings.

“As House Master Khurana has said, it’s more important that you have a good process, that students have an opportunity to have a voice,” Nelson said.

Eliot House Committee Co-Chair Wesley W. Mann attributed the lack of turnout at Thursday night’s 8:30 p.m. meeting to a busy night in Eliot House. A House Stein Club and an intramural soccer game were both scheduled for 9 p.m.

Mann also noted that the event was not “heavily, heavily publicized”—it was not, for instance, advertised over the Eliot House email list.

“The process has been very long,” Mann said. “People definitely gave their input and their opinions—I don’t think that they really need to say the same thing over again.”

Eliot Co-House Master Gail O’Keefe said that some of the students she spoke with had “heard about [the meetings], but they were politely declining” to attend.

Eliot resident Dipona K. Bandy ’14, who did not know about the meeting before it happened, said she didn’t think the low turnout indicated a lack of interest.

“I don’t think people are disinterested in the issue,” Bandy said. “I’ve heard a lot of people are frustrated with the new policies.”

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

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