College Releases New Alcohol Policies

Harvard released a new College-wide alcohol policy Friday, ushering in an era of greater University regulation over undergraduate drinking.

The new guidelines, intended to standardize currently inconsistent enforcement of alcohol policy across the 12 Houses, outline how alcohol should be handled and distributed in a variety of settings—from students’ dorm rooms to social events sponsored by the College.

Harvard’s new policy, which has been in the works for months and is released in the wake of a scandal over fraternity hazing and drinking practices at Dartmouth College, will go into effect next fall after being reviewed by faculty. The guidelines specify the quantity and type of alcohol that can be served, how it can be advertised and licensed, and when it can be offered. The new policy includes no mention of jurisdiction over final clubs or Greek organizations.

While the College aims to tighten its grip over unsafe drinking on campus, it has loosened its restrictions on hard liquor. In response to student feedback, mixed drinks will once again be allowed at House formals.

When mixed drinks return to House formals next year, the College will view the relaxed policy as a pilot program to test whether students are able to drink hard liquor responsibly.


While House Committee Chairs applauded Harvard’s decision to reintroduce hard liquor to formals and incorporate other student feedback into the new policy, some questioned the guidelines’ vagueness about drinking games and punishment for infractions.


The document lays out one alcohol policy for all House formals.

It states that mixed drinks can contain only one type of liquor and must be served by a professional bartender approved by the Office of Student Life. While beer and malt beverages can be distributed at an open bar, mixed drinks must be purchased or disbursed through a drink ticket system.

Adams HoCo Co-Chair Jackson F. Cashion ’13 called the change “a good step toward treating us like adults.”

Cabot HoCo Co-Chair Laura S. Hinton ’13 echoed Cashion. Calling formals “a really important part of House life,” Hinton said, “Serving only beer and wine can be restrictive.”

The College’s move to reintroduce hard liquor at both on- and off-campus House formals reverses two decisions made over the past two years to restrict mixed drinks at these semester-end events. In April 2010, the College banned hard liquor at on-campus formals after the Cambridge License Commission decided that it would no longer issue all-liquor licenses to students. A year later, in March 2011, administrators extended the hard liquor ban to off-campus House formals.

Quincy HoCo Co-Chair Catherine G. Katz ’13, who, along with all the other HoCo chairs previewed the policy at a meeting Tuesday night, pointed to the reintroduction of hard liquor as evidence that the College took student input into consideration when drafting the guidelines.

“They could easily have taken a very hard-line policy and said no,” Katz said. “The fact that they were willing to try [the pilot program] shows they were willing to listen.”

Over the past year, the College has made an effort to solicit student feedback on the new policy at seven meetings. When these meetings generated low student turnout, the alcohol policy committee turned to an online survey for students last month. Next week, the College will hold three more student meetings to solicit feedback on the new policy.