UPDATED: February 18, 2015, at 2:18 a.m.
Ten years after being appointed the first director of Harvard's Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services, Ryan M. Travia is set to depart Harvard and take up an associate dean of students position at Babson College next month.
Travia was also the director of the Department of Health Promotion and Education, charged with overseeing divisions such as the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and Sexual Health and Relationship Counselors.
Through his work with AODS, Travia oversaw many changes in the way the University educates students about alcohol and disciplines them for infractions. When he first came to Harvard in 2005, he said, the College’s drug policies were decentralized. In 2012, a new alcohol policy standardized enforcement of alcohol rules throughout the Houses.
In addition, Travia said that education about alcohol was not a focus among administrators.
“The notion was that if you even spoke about alcohol, you could only do it from a legal context,” Travia said in an interview Tuesday. “And so the proctors… were instructed that they had to read the verbiage of the handbook of students and they could go no further than that. There were no orientation programs on alcohol.”
Travia added that underage students found with alcohol were written up and had their names presented to the Administrative Board.
In 2007, Harvard unveiled an alcohol and drug amnesty policy, which allows students to bring themselves or intoxicated friends to Harvard University Health Services without facing the possibility of disciplinary action.
"Probably one of my proudest moments and biggest wins that I think we were able to accomplish collectively for the community was the passage of the amnesty policy back in 2007, which I really view as the central tenet to our entire approach here," Travia said.
He described several trends he had witnessed during his tenure at Harvard, including a shift away from beer and wine to hard alcohol consumption among undergraduates, which he associates with "pregaming," or drinking that goes on before a party or event.
Travia also said that despite the 2009 decriminalization of marijuana in Massachusetts, he did not see an increase in the use of the drug, which he said about 25 percent of students report having tried and between 10 and 12 percent report having used in the last month.
“Marijuana is something we will need to keep an eye on as the country moves towards legalization… Interestingly enough, despite the decriminalization, we have not seen any movement in our trend data whatsoever,” he said.
Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman '67, who has worked closely with Travia over the past 10 years on alcohol education initiatives, praised Travia’s work.
“I think we’ve made great strides in terms of how we think about the use and abuse of alcohol,” Dingman said, lauding Travia for his focus on data and surveys and his work with Drug and Alcohol Peer Advisors, the peer educational group concerning drugs.
Travia's last day at Harvard will be March 13, he said. He expects that the University will announce his replacement in the coming months.
—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.
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