Parties Canceled Amid Rumors of Police Crackdown

Several final clubs and other student organizations canceled parties during the first weekend back at school as rumors swirled about a planned police crackdown on underage drinking.

Though neither the Harvard University Police Department nor the Cambridge Police Department made any public announcement about increased weekend policing, undergraduates swapped wild stories to explain their caution about partying—ranging from a supposed cocaine sting in a final club to Harvard’s possible concern over bad press after two summer sexual assaults and a major cheating scandal.

The rumors were enough to deter many clubs, and though both HUPD and CPD representatives did not respond to requests for comments over the weekend, a significantly higher than usual number of Cambridge police officers lined Mt. Auburn Street, home to most of the final clubs, on Friday and Saturday nights.

The officers administered Breathalyzer tests to students and asked them to pour their drinks into the street. The police log which would indicate whether any students were arrested for underage drinking had not been published as of press time.

Stephanie L. Newman ’13, the publisher of the Advocate, repeated the rumors in an email to the literary magazine staff cancelling a planned party on Saturday. “The College is cracking down on parties this weekend and calling in the Cambridge Police to monitor instead of HUPD. The word on the street is that they're trying to look for a partying organization with underage drinking to make a bad example of,” she wrote. “It's not worth losing funding or building privileges for a bottle of wine.”

As off-campus organizations, the eight property-owning male final clubs are not under the jurisdiction of HUPD. But students say they have come to expect that the Cambridge police will keep their distance.

Parties in students’ rooms were not exempt from the perceived scrutiny over the weekend. Some theorized that the move of about 180 Quincy House students into three Harvard Square apartment buildings while the House undergoes renovations may have been a factor.

The swing housing is located in areas that are not occupied solely by Harvard students, as Quincy residents live above commercial outlets like J. P. Licks and Grolier Poetry Bookshop.

On Friday night, a party in Quincy swing space Hampden Hall, at 8 Plympton Street, was broken up by the Cambridge police. According to Tankersley, a neighbor, the officers came in after interrogating students on the sidewalk outside.

Fellow Quincy swing housing resident Rachel J. Sapire ’15 commented, “I think HUPD is generally capable at doing what they set out to do, so I guess I really don’t see why [the Cambridge police] would be necessary.”

Students said they wondered whether the fear of partying would continue to dampen social life as the semester continues.

Alaina A. Alvarez ’15 said that the police presence will not deter underage drinking for long. “I think that it’s going to happen regardless of whether or not they crack down,” she said.

But Kyle O. McIntee ’15 felt confident that Harvard had chosen the right policing tactics. “Whatever the University deems right is probably right,” he said.

—Gina K. Hackett contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Julia K. Dean can be reached at juliadean@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:

CORRECTION: Sept. 10

An earlier version of this article said that Mia P. Tankersley ’14 overheard a police officer speaking outside a final club; in fact, Tankersley heard about the remark in question from a friend. The article also misquoted Alaina A. Alvarez ’15 and Rachel J. Sapire ’15.

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