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Officials Issue Drinking Memo

Two 'Life-Threatening' Incidents Cited

By James L. Chen

Three top University officials sent a memorandum last week to leaders of student organizations and athletic teams apprising them of two recent 'life-threatening' alcohol poisoning incidents and urging them to use their positions to stop illegal use and abuse of alcohol.

"Basically this letter, like the letter I sent to all students at the end of the summer, is a reminder and warning that heavy drinking is dangerous," said Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68, one of the writers of the memo.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III and Director of Athletics William J. Cleary '56 co-authored the letter with Lewis.

"We write to you in your role as student leader, both to urge you to exercise responsible leadership of your group, and to remind and warn you of certain College policies and exceptions," Lewis, Epps and Cleary wrote in the memorandum.

Student leaders had mixed reactions to the increased attention of the administration toward alcohol on campus.

"A lot of recruits come here with this stuffy image of Harvard and I think it's good to show them a good time," said one athletic captain who requested anonymity. "I also think it's hard to completely prohibit [underage drinking]. [Harvard] is a normal place just like any other school."

Jill R. Weitzner '96, president of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, said individual students should be able to decide on their own whether to drink.

"The responsibility is with the student to drink or not to drink," she said. "Student leaders can certainly make a comfortable environment by not pressuring anyone. But there will be some people who choose to drink and I only hope that they can handle it."

Others said they were worried this memorandum would prevent students who drink too much from seeking medical attention.

"What may happen is, people won't go by the rules and when a serious situation comes up, they may completely avoid going to UHS just so that they can avoid disciplinary action," said field hockey co-captain Carrie P. Shumay '96. "This is a scary situation."

According to the letter, in two of the alcohol poisoning incidents, "underage students were apparently served large quantities of alcohol by members of an organization or team they had joined, as part of a celebration or initiation."

The memorandum reminded students leaders that they are ultimately responsible for any "initiation and hazing rituals" and that they may be "personally financially liable for any harm that may befall an individual as a consequence of alcohol you were involved in procuring or serving."

Lewis, Epps and Cleary encouraged student leaders to contact them or their Senior Tutor with any questions and to "share the memo with others in [their] group."

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