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Alcohol Czar Heads to Leverett Bar

By John R. Macartney, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard’s “alcohol czar,” Ryan M. Travia, is head of an initiative seeking to reduce binge drinking, so the bait used to lure students to his talk at Leverett House might have seemed surprising: booze.

Travia, director of Harvard’s Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services, staged a question and answer session on drinking in the Leverett Senior Common Room last night, underlining his frank and pragmatic approach to undergraduate alcohol use.

“We are not prohibitionist by any stretch of the imagination,” said Travia, as he engaged a dozen students in a discussion about drinking, its health effects, and Harvard’s alcohol policies.

“Telling people not to drink is not something I like to do because I think it’s pretty ineffective,” he added.

Instead, he clarified Harvard’s alcohol amnesty policy, under which administrators pledge not to punish students admitted to University Health Services (UHS) for drinking.

And he gave out lip-balm to students who correctly answered questions on the alcohol content of different drinks.

The goal of the talk, Travia said, was to provide answers to the question: “What are some ways in which you can look out for yourselves and your friends?”

Students were just as straightforward in asking questions of the alcohol czar.

“What about hangover cures?” asked one sophomore.

“Does booting it out lower your blood alcohol level?” another student, this one old enough to drink legally, wondered.

“I liked his approach,” Pat M. Tomaino ’07 said of Travia.

But Dustin T. Clausen ’08 said, “It’s not going to change my behavior.”

He said that the “allure” of the talk, entitled, “Pizza, Port, and Pop,” wasn’t its content.

“The pizza,” Clausen added, “was delicious.”

The choice to serve port at an event concerning alcohol abuse struck many in attendance as strange, including Travia.

“It’s something I’m getting used to,” he said of the availability of alcohol at College-organized events. “I’ve never seen anything like the Stein Clubs before, or ‘Pizza, Pop, and Port’ nights.”

“Am I encouraging drinking through this presentation?” Travia asked. “I don’t think so. I hope not.”

He did not drink during the event.

Resident tutor Meredith Osborn ’02 organized the talk and checked that students enjoying the port were of age.

—Staff writer John R. Macartney can be reached at

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