Drugs and Alcohol

Harvard expects its students and employees to maintain an environment that is safe and healthy. The unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by students and employees on Harvard property or as a part of any Harvard activity are violations of University rules as well as the law. Possession, use, or distribution of certain non-prescription drugs, including marijuana, amphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and non-prescription synthetics; procurement or distribution of alcohol by anyone under 21 years of age; and provision of alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age are violations of the law and of Harvard policy. All students are expected to comply with any College rules governing possessing or serving alcohol. More information is available at your House Website or the Website for the Office of Residential Life. The University holds its students and employees responsible for the consequences of their decisions to use or distribute illicit drugs or to serve or consume alcohol. Additionally, the misuse of prescription drugs (sharing, buying, or using in a manner different than prescribed) is a violation of University policy.

Health Concerns

The use of illicit drugs and the misuse of alcohol or prescription drugs are potentially harmful to health. In particular, synthetically-produced drugs often have unpredictable emotional and physical side effects that constitute an extreme health hazard. Students should also weigh the seriousness of potential loss of function that may come from ingesting illicit drugs or too much alcohol. Because of the considerable hazards involved in drug and alcohol use, administrative, medical, and psychiatric help for students having alcohol or other drug problems are available on a confidential basis from the Office of Alcohol & Other Drug Services (AODS) and other departments within Harvard University Health Services, as well from Resident Deans and other officers of the University. Any member of the University may make use of the Health Services on an emergency basis, day and night.

Referrals for Consultation/Treatment Regarding Alcohol and/or Other Drug Abuse

The following procedures outline the process for obtaining consultation for a Harvard College student whose known or suspected alcohol or drug use is affecting his or her ability to function effectively as a student and/or as a member of the Harvard community. Referrals may be made by a Resident Dean (Resident Dean of Freshman or Allston Burr Resident Dean) based on incidents in the Yard or Houses or as a result of Administrative Board action. Consultations with Alcohol & Other Drug Services (AODS) are not intended to take the place of routine advising conversations between Resident Deans and students. Rather, they provide an opportunity for structured intervention, particularly for those students who may not view their substance use or related negative consequences as problematic. The procedures and resources outlined below are focused upon the health and safety of the student. They are not a substitute for disciplinary action.

Grounds for Referral

Any of the following conditions may lead a Resident Dean or the Administrative Board to refer a student for a consultation with AODS about his or her known or suspected alcohol or drug use:

Referral Letter

The Resident Dean makes the referral for an initial consultation in writing to the student with a copy to the Director of AODS and a copy for the student’s file. The referral letter frames the referral as a consultation regarding the student’s alcohol or drug use, rather than as treatment or counseling. The referral letter clearly communicates to the student that s/he is expected to schedule an appointment with the Director of AODS within a specified time of receiving the letter (three weeks is recommended) and is to comply with all of the Director’s recommendations. It is also made clear in the referral letter that, should the student choose to decline the referral, the Resident Dean and senior officers of the House and the College will assess, on the basis of available information, whether it is appropriate for the student to continue in residence and remain enrolled in the College.

Initial AODS Consultation

The Director of AODS will consult with the student individually about his/her substance use/abuse and may then direct the student to one or more interventions. Interventions include, but are not limited to, alcohol education (AlcoholEdu for Sanctions, etc.), an individual substance abuse assessment with an on-campus mental health professional (Brief Alcohol Screening & Intervention for College Students [BASICS]), or an ongoing support group (New Directions) offered by Mental Health Services. The nature of the initial AODS consultation may vary, depending upon the nature of the substance use pattern and the circumstances surrounding the referral. The consultation is intended to determine the best course of action in addressing the substance use issue on an individual basis. It should also be noted that support is available from HUHS with or without a referral—students can also access AODS services on their own.

Monitoring Student Compliance

At the initial consultation meeting, the Director of AODS will seek permission from the student to contact the appropriate College officer (typically, the student’s Resident Dean) regarding the student’s attendance and participation in the initial consultation and what further action, if any, is recommended. The same process is invoked for subsequent interventions such as AlcoholEdu for Sanctions, BASICS, and New Directions; student attendance and recommendations for further treatment/intervention are communicated to the Resident Dean. Authorized release forms are used as necessary.

It is the responsibility of the Resident Dean, in consultation with the Director of AODS and other senior College officials, to follow up with the student upon notification of a student’s failure to comply with the recommended assessment, intervention, or treatment.

Illegal Acts

Careful note should be taken that the University should not be considered a protector or sanctuary from the existing laws of the city, state, or federal government. Massachusetts law prohibits the sale, delivery, or furnishing of alcohol to persons under the age of 21. In addition, a social host may under certain circumstances be held liable for injuries caused by a guest who, having consumed alcohol on the host’s premises, does harm to himself or herself or to a third party. If the guest is under 21 and the host knew or reasonably should have known that he or she was furnishing alcohol to a person under 21, the host will be held responsible for injuries or damage to that person or to third parties caused by the person under 21’s alcohol-influenced actions. Further, even if the guest was not a person under 21, a social host will be liable for injuries to third parties if the host knew or should have known that the guest was intoxicated, but nevertheless gave him or her, or permitted him or her to take, an alcoholic drink.

Students are reminded that there are heavy penalties, including imprisonment, for possession or distribution of illicit drugs and for selling or delivering alcohol to, or procuring alcohol for, anyone under 21. There are also serious penalties for anyone under the age of 21 who purchases, attempts to purchase, or arranges to procure alcoholic beverages or to misrepresent his or her age or falsify his or her identification with the intent of purchasing alcohol, as well as for anyone, regardless of age, who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with an open container of alcohol. In addition, the City of Cambridge prohibits consumption of alcohol on public property or on property open to the public.

Responsible Social Events

Harvard College considers the officers of all student groups (whether or not such group is officially recognized by the College) to be leaders in the Harvard community, and expects that they, like any other social host, will create safe social environments. To this end, student group officers are urged to participate in annual education efforts with the Office of Alcohol & Drug Services and the Student Activities Office, which may include, for example, training on event planning, risk reduction, and bartending.

Disciplinary Action

The University requires all students to become familiar with the information on drugs and alcohol distributed at registration each year. In addition, the General Counsel to the University has prepared a pamphlet on drug and alcohol laws that is available in the offices of the Allston Burr Resident Deans, the Dean of Freshmen, and the Dean of Harvard College. When cases involving drugs and alcohol come to the attention of the College, the College may take disciplinary action against a student, including requirement to withdraw. However, the College has also adopted an "amnesty policy," as set forth below.

Amnesty Policy

Any student may bring an intoxicated or drug-impaired friend to Harvard University Health Services or to a hospital, or seek assistance from College residential life staff or HUPD, and by doing this, neither they nor the friend will face disciplinary action from the College for having used or provided alcohol or drugs. Further, if the person who sought assistance for the intoxicated or drug-impaired student was a member or guest of the student group involved, the College will weigh this fact heavily as a mitigating circumstance with respect to any potential disciplinary action. Conversely, the College will consider the failure to seek assistance by members of the student group as a factor when determining the appropriateness of disciplinary action. The College also may consider as mitigating factors the student group’s participation in the College’s annual education and training about responsible social events, as well as any efforts made by the hosts or officers to prevent the harmful or potentially harmful situation and their cooperation with the College in its investigation of the situation. 

Usual Responses

Officers of the College may initially respond to the use of illicit drugs, underage possession or consumption of alcohol, serving alcohol to underage individuals, or overconsumption of alcohol with a warning and/or referral to the Office of Alcohol & Other Drug Services. A pattern of behavior in violation of rules governing their use or possession will lead to warning by the House Master or Dean of Freshmen, admonition by the Administrative Board, probation, or requirement to withdraw. The Administrative Board will take serious action, ordinarily probation or requirement to withdraw, in any case involving the possession in quantity or the sale or distribution of drugs, or when cases of drug and alcohol use engender danger to individuals or to the community at large. The Administrative Board will also take action in cases in which a student is involved in the falsification of identification with the intent of obtaining alcohol.

Student Groups

In addition, where serious harm, or the potential for serious harm, has come to any person as a result of consumption of alcohol or drugs at an event held, sponsored, organized or supported by a student group, whether or not such group is officially recognized by the College (either on campus or off campus), and the individual or individuals directly responsible are not identified, the host or hosts of the event may be held personally responsible. If the hosts also can not be identified, the officers of the organization may be held personally responsible. In considering such cases, the College will, in all circumstances, apply the amnesty policy described above.

At a minimum, when cases involving the consumption of alcohol or drugs at an event held, sponsored, organized or supported by a student group come to the attention of the College, the student group may be asked to come to the Office of the Dean of the College for a conversation about their procedures for hosting responsible social events and may be asked to participate in additional education or training efforts.