Two potential questions raised by the shooting are whether Harvard properly addressed drug use on campus before the incident and whether the attitude toward illegal drug use within the College has changed.
It is hardly a surprise that marijuana is consumed in a state that decriminalized possession of small quantities of the substance last year—it certainly isn’t to Steven G. Catalano, spokesman for the Harvard University Police Department.
“Harvard is no different than [any] other school or university with regards to the presence of drugs and alcohol on campus,” he writes in an e-mail. “We have always taken a hard line stance to drug distribution on campus.”
Administrators are unwilling to discuss the Kirkland incident, though they remain adamant that Harvard consistently enforces its policies prohibiting drug use.
Last week, Nelson defended the College’s policies regarding marijuana, including the degree to which they have been enforced by tutors.
“We have a perfectly good protocol, and we’ve consistently implemented the protocol and will continue to do that,” she says.
McIntosh, who edits the crisis handbook for House staff, says “the protocol didn’t change” since the Kirkland incident.
While HUPD may take “a hard line stance” against drug distribution, the individuals who oftentimes are the first to respond to drug use on campus—the resident tutors who populate every entryway of every residential House at the College—tell a different story.
Before the shooting, tutors sometimes turned a blind eye towards infractions seen as minor, but they have since been instructed to more strictly enforce Harvard’s drug policies.
“It’s sort of like a tree falls in the forest and if you don’t see it, it’s not happening,” Luciana Herman, a resident tutor in Quincy House, says about the attitude toward drug enforcement prior to the shooting. “There was a passive disinterest.”
But since the incident, tutors say the administration has instructed them to be more vigilant, in line with what Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 calls “a heightened understanding that where there’s any kind of drug activity that the connection to any criminal behavior is not far removed.”
“I think that after the event in Kirkland, we were all told that the University is concerned about this and that we should really remind students that engaging in drugs can be a very dangerous thing,” says an Adams House resident tutor, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the subject.
After The Crimson began contacting House staff for this article, Hammonds instructed College staff not to comment on “issues arising out of the Kirkland incident,” according to Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesman Jeff Neal. House Masters, resident deans, and most tutors contacted for this article after last Wednesday morning declined to answer questions related to campus security policy, instead referring comment to Neal and Nelson.
While tutors may have been instructed to more strictly enforce drug policy in light of the shooting, it remains unclear what effect that has had. There is some evidence to suggest that drug use may have declined at least briefly after the shooting took place, but there are few signs that the campus drug scene has been significantly affected by last year’s incident.
“Right after it happened, no one was selling drugs on campus,” says one Harvard undergraduate who uses marijuana and asked to remain anonymous because he uses the substance. “Coming back in the fall, [buying drugs] was definitely harder than it was before.”