Deadline Looms for Groups To Register

Today marks the last day for Harvard student groups, including final clubs, to register the names of their officers with the College to comply with its revised hazing policy.

The deadline comes under a new attempt to regulate events sponsored by student groups and athletic teams, which the administration hopes will curtail hazing and decrease unsafe and underage drinking.

According to the Handbook for Students, party hosts or officers of the sponsoring group can be held responsible for “harm or the potential for serious harm” to a student resulting from the consumption of drugs or alcohol if the individuals responsible cannot be identified.

While Harvard-affiliated groups have always had to register their officers with the College, unaffiliated organizations, such as final clubs, have not been required to do so until this year. All groups have also been asked to return a signed non-hazing agreement by Dec. 15.

Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd said she has discussed the registration policy with several unaffiliated organizations, and that she expects them to generally comply. Leaders of several final clubs declined to comment.

“We’re leaning towards signing, but there’s still a lot of issues that are unresolved,” said a final club member who requested anonymity, citing club policy not to speak to the press. “There’s a question of if this is going to be a symbiotic relationship. If we’re willing to develop a working relationship [with the College]...why do we need to do this registration?”

However, many student groups do not think they will be affected by the changes.

“Seeing that we don’t even have a building and most of our parties take place in dorm rooms, we’ve always felt like we were under the scrutiny of the campus,” said Marta M. Figlerowicz ’09, publisher of the Harvard Book Review, which held its required “hazing office hours” last night. “We’re reassured in the standards we’ve always held ourselves to. It feels more like a validation than a restriction.”

The Crimson is also an unaffiliated student organization. The paper’s president, Kristina M. Moore ’08, declined to comment.

“We agreed to it, obviously,” said football captain Bradley J. Bagdis ’08. “But to say that one guy, the captain, can be responsible for 100 guys’ actions is a pretty difficult thing to expect.”

Ryan Travia, director of the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services, said he has implemented outreach programs to support and educate student leaders about their responsibilities.

“With this sort of policy, you always have a risk of drinking going underground,” Travia said, also acknowledging that students could be less likely to call for help for fear of getting in trouble. Nevertheless, this semester’s statistics do not show a change in the number of students going to University Health Services (UHS) for alcohol-related problems as compared with previous years, he said.

This year’s Handbook for Students officially recognizes the amnesty policy of UHS, which allows students to seek help for drug- and alcohol-related problems without fear of punishment.

Harvard’s requirement that student groups register with the College followed two near-deaths related to alcohol last year, one a result of a recognized organization’s party and the other involving a final club.

Partly in response to these two incidents, the College created the Committee on Social Clubs last spring to look into unrecognized student groups. The committee found that other schools, including Dartmouth and Yale, have similar policies that hold even unaffiliated student groups responsible.

“This [disciplinary policy] was a fairly straightforward action by the faculty and I am certain it could have been adopted earlier,” John “Jay” Ellison, the secretary of the Administrative Board, wrote in an e-mail.

Aside from the health risks involved with drugs and alcohol, Kidd said Harvard has also been pushed to make changes because of legal issues.

“We all know you drink. The College would prefer to worry [only] about unsafe drinking, but since the legal drinking age is 21, we have to worry about underage drinking,” she said.

Kidd added that the policy has room for understanding and flexibility.

“It doesn’t mean [a student group leader will] go directly to the Ad Board,” she said. “Nobody can stop somebody pre-gaming and then coming to a party, having one drink, and passing out.”