Cracking Down on Drinking

The College’s recent crackdown on alcohol is causing a ruckus across campus. Since May, the administration has been meeting with student group leaders to inform them of a policy change: Henceforth, if any student needs to visit University Health Services (UHS) after a party hosted by a student group, the leaders of that group are possibly liable and can be disciplined. The policy has been blamed for its unfairness and for discouraging social events on campus.

Most recently, Dean David Pilbeam suspended all UC party grants on the grounds that the program involves giving money directly to underage students to buy alcohol. But the battle did not end there—the UC refused to obey Pilbeam and continued to dish out grants. The College responded by freezing the UC’s entire budget, potentially threatening all student groups who rely on UC funding to function. This morning the College released cash for House Committees, but the overall future of UC money remains to be decided.

Regardless, the College is in the midst of a campus-wide crackdown on what it deems excessive drinking. Here, six writers react to the crackdown.

A Dangerous Policy

Despite the disappointment of losing the UC’s party fund, it is not the most disturbing of the College’s recent crackdowns in its alcohol policy. Last spring’s policy on social clubs is alarming in its ignorance of the social pressures behind drinking. Student leaders of both official and unofficial student groups (read: final clubs, for the latter) are now held personally responsible before the Administrative Board if anyone falls ill from over-indulgence at a group event.

Besides hazily conflicting with the College’s amnesty policy (whereby students who go to University Health Services have nothing to fear from the administration), the new rule endangers students by providing a disincentive to bring drunken kids to UHS from a fear of getting a friend (or, say the president of the final club you’re punching) into trouble. It’s a shame the Administration has chosen to favor pedantic bureaucracy over student safety.

Emma M. Lind ’09, a Crimson associate editorial chair, is a history and literature concentrator in Winthrop House.

A Misguided Approach

The College’s new policy regarding student group parties will cause student group presidents to think twice before taking a student to UHS, since they could be forced to appear before the Administrative Board (Ad Board). The new policy might also discourage student groups from sponsoring parties to begin with—why take the risk? The amnesty policy, whereby students who visit UHS suffer no consequences, is therefore at risk, considering student group presidents are now being asked to conduct independent investigations of other students on behalf of the Ad Board in order to avoid being personally held responsible. An yet the administration hesitates to acknowledge that students may now be encouraged to go to off-campus locations or drink in more dangerous environments as a result. Unfortunately, we seem to have forgotten that we can collaboratively protect the community and socialize in a legal and safe way.

The College had an exciting opportunity last spring to have a conversation about how to create a safe, legal, and fun social scene. Unfortunately, the Committee on Social Clubs, created to discuss the matter, excluded students. It is regrettable—and somewhat perverse—that when the administration decides to change the Handbook for Students, they don’t discuss the handbook with students. And it’s truly troublesome that the College has decided to value legality over safety.

Matthew L. Sundquist ’09 is a philosophy concentrator in Mather House. He is Vice-President of the Undergraduate Council.

Covering its Legal Arse

Since May this year, the College has had a mysterious change of heart regarding alcohol on campus. For years, students and College have maintained an amicable balance: You don’t mother us, we don’t bother you. But now the honeymoon is over.

But what’s most vexing about the administration’s crackdown is its manner of interaction with student groups. The College has shown little-to-no interest in learning about the social situations and pressures students actually encounter, and how its policies might affect their circumstances. Instead, its modus operandi is to demand instant, mandatory meetings with group leaders, present them with vague accusations, and refuse to present specific or helpful evidence to deal with the “problem.”

Supposedly a thoughtful and enlightened institution, the College is acting with all the wisdom and grace of a drunken freshman. But worst of all, the crackdown seems to be less about safe drinking than about College’s desire to cover its legal arse.

Juliet S. Samuel ’09, a Crimson associate editorial chair, is a social studies concentrator in Eliot House.

A Question of Priorities

You’d think that Harvard had transformed into a military junta, given the tone of recent email threads demanding justice and democracy. Alas, the students throwing around such lofty rhetoric have been riled by nothing more than Dean Pilbeam’s refusal to continue subsidizing underage drinking. By bemoaning the demise of campus social life, Pilbeam’s critics suggest that Harvard students can enjoy themselves only while inebriated.

Intoxication is not a prerequisite for social interaction. In fact, students may find it more enjoyable to sustain coherent conversations and actually remember them the next morning. Many students would welcome more alcohol-free social events on the weekends.

The Undergraduate Council (UC) would therefore have been wise to take Pilbeam’s advice and recommit its poorly regulated party grants to other causes, such as the DAPA grant program, class-wide social events, and some of our 390 student organizations.

Despite the College’s freeze on UC funds in response to the UC’s intransigence, there is a silver lining. Now that the UC has proven willing to act in open defiance of the administration, surely we can expect it to mobilize with the same force to campaign for lower textbook costs for low-income students or to persuade the University to adopt more socially responsible investment policies. Perhaps in the future, the UC will save its political capital for campus advocacy that matters rather than petty fights over students’ rights to get drunk for free.

Joanna I. Naples-Mitchell ’10, a Crimson editorial editor, lives in Kirkland House.

Live a Little

About a year ago, Harvard students were up in arms: someone was trying to take their liquor away. Back then, the culprit was the Boston Police Department, who had decided to turn the Harvard-Yale tailgate into a dry affair. The students’ indignation seemed a little misplaced. After all, the police’s responsibility is to enforce the law, and inconveniently, that law says no liquor under 21.

Now, students are incensed again, condemning the administration for canceling the UC Party Fund and cracking down on drinking at student group events. This time, though, things are different. Harvard University is not a police force. It’s a school, and its primary responsibility is to foster the growth and development of its students, socially as well as academically. That calculus might not justify directly handing out liquor to minors, but it could support turning a blind eye to a little benign law-breaking.

Harvard is actually a remarkably safe (and tame) place to drink, in particular because so few people drive. Without cars, most of the harm done by drinking falls upon the drinker. And if the occasional Harvard student feels like possibly lopping a few years off of his expected lifespan in return for enjoying the years he has a little more, so be it. That’s what living is.

Daniel E. Herz-Roiphe ’10, a Crimson editorial editor, lives in Adams House.

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