Student Leaders May Face Liability

UC decries lack of inclusion in drafting new policy on alcohol and hazing at club gatherings

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) on Wednesday moved one step closer to holding student group leaders accountable for hazing and alcohol consumption within their ranks.

The Faculty Council, the highest governing body of FAS, approved revisions to the Handbook for Students that would make leaders of recognized and non-recognized student groups subject to review by the Administrative Board if their members or guests experience “serious harm” resulting from excessive alcohol consumption or hazing at the organization’s gatherings.

Before becoming official policy, the proposed rules must be approved by the full Faculty, which is scheduled to vote on the matter next Tuesday.

The Faculty Council also approved changes that will spell out the College’s “amnesty policy,” which allows students to seek medical or police assistance for an intoxicated or drug-impaired peer without facing disciplinary action from the College.

Although the amnesty clause applies to all students, Director of the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services Ryan M. Travia said he does not believe the potential policy will protect group leaders if students became intoxicated from ritualized drinking or hazing during events sponsored by the clubs.

“These are things that are going to need to be fleshed out,” Travia said, adding that the Administrative Board plans to evaluate each incident on case-by-case basis.

The move to hold student leaders accountable comes despite ongoing opposition from Undergraduate Council (UC) leadership. The UC supports the amnesty policy and the measures intended to combat hazing, according to Student Affairs Committee Chair Mike R. Ragalie ’09. But members are concerned that the policy on drug and alcohol abuse at parties is worded too vaguely and leaves club officers vulnerable to arbitrary disciplinary action.

“There was a colossal opportunity here to actually change the culture of parties here at Harvard, and the administration just blew it,” Ragalie said. The UC has also expressed concern about the lack of student involvement and transparency throughout the process. UC President Ryan A. Petersen ’08 said that administrators did not include students in the process early enough.

“I think that if they came to us in September, students would have supported some element of punishment and other more comprehensive improvements in student behavior,” Petersen said.

Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd said the changes to the handbook were made at the request of Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 and the General Counsel of the University Robert W. Iuliano ’83.

“There was never any intention to have a full-fledged campus debate on this issue because we felt strongly that it was the responsibility of the College to act, and we took that responsibility seriously,” said Kidd, who chaired the Committee on Social Clubs that originally proposed the changes.

Travia said his office plans to launch a new Web site this fall and will offer training for student groups on party and alcohol safety. Leaders of non-recognized and recognized campus social groups—including final clubs—could not be reached for comment yesterday.

—Staff writer Carolyn F. Gaebler can be reached at

—Staff writer Brittney L. Moraski can be reached at