Faculty to Tackle Marijuana Policy, Vaping

Faculty will vote on whether or not to approve Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana’s proposed changes to the student handbook—including clarifying the University’s policy on marijuana and switching to gender-neutral language—at Tuesday’s faculty meeting.

Last November, Massachusetts residents voted to legalize the possession, recreational use, and eventual sale of marijuana. The state’s new policy on legal recreational use went into effect on Dec. 15, and the sale of recreational marijuana has been delayed by the state legislature until mid-2018.

Faculty Meeting
Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences outside a Faculty meeting in November 2015.

The student handbook currently states that the “possession, use, or distribution” of marijuana is a violation of Harvard policy. The proposed handbook changes would keep this prohibition, but add a clarifying statement about the change in state law.

“Although Massachusetts law now permits adults aged 21 or older to possess and consume marijuana under certain circumstances, federal law prohibits the possession, use, or distribution of marijuana, including for medical purposes, on Harvard property or as part of a Harvard activity,” the handbook would read.

Khurana will also move to include vaping as a prohibited activity under the College’s smoking policy: “This is also an opportune time to clarify the College’s stance on vaping. Following the approach taken by University efforts to implement tobacco-free policies on campus, the use of vaping in the Houses and dorms should be prohibited,” the memo reads.


The revised handbook also includes eliminated instances of gendered language in the handbook: For example, “his or her activities” would become “the student’s activities.” In the memo, Khurana writes that these revisions are “in keeping with the University’s articulation of belonging and inclusion.”

Other proposed changes include updated information about the General Education program, which will be in transition until the new program is fully rolled out in the fall of 2018, and policies on email extensions and taking exams in absentia.

The proposed edits come as some Faculty members call on Khurana to include a proposed expansion of the Honor Council’s role in the handbook, putting it to a Faculty vote. The Honor Council has been tasked with adjudicating cases of students in violation of the College’s social policy on single-gender social organizations, following a report from a committee charged with recommending how to implement that policy. Khurana accepted the committee’s recommendations in March.

Also on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris will present five-year reviews of the Electrical Engineering concentration, the Mechanical Engineering concentration, and the rules regarding the awarding of summa cum laude honors.

Extension School Dean Huntington D. Lambert and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith will also move that the Faculty approve the 2017-2018 courses of instruction for their respective schools.

—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at Follow him Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.

–Staff writer Mia C. Karr can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @miackarr.