Consultations and Interventions for Behavioral
Disturbances Due to Alcohol or Drug Abuse and Psychological Disorders

The College’s concern for students’ well-being encompasses the preservation of a safe environment and the proactive provision of health resources. The College communicates to all students the availability of psychological, psychiatric, and medical resources at Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) for consultation, assessment, education, intervention, and possible ongoing treatment of behavioral disturbances arising from alcohol or drug abuse and psychological disorders. The College encourages students’ voluntary use of these confidential resources, and proctors, tutors, and Resident Deans routinely refer students to them or remind students of their availability.

Hence, the College’s response to students’ misuse of alcohol or other drugs and to other manifestations of behavioral disturbances extends beyond response to violations of rules. In addition to disciplinary processes that address problematic behavior of the disruption of community life that often accompany or result from misuse of alcohol or other drugs and from psychological disorder, the College also promotes a climate and provides services for amelioration of these difficulties. As a result, students can, in collaboration with appropriate professionals, identify and address their patterns of substance abuse or psychological disorders that may place their own and others’ health and well-being at significant risk.

Occasionally, a student with potentially significant problems in the use of alcohol, use of drugs, or behavioral manifestations of psychological disorder does not voluntarily seek help to ameliorate them. These problems often become apparent to residential staff, Harvard police, or other University officers in the form of significant disruption of life in the residential community, disturbance of personal relationships, or threats to the safety of individuals or of property. Alternatively, a student’s behavioral problems resulting from substance use or psychological disorder may recur or persist over time, a situation that poses significant threat to his or her own health and well-being. In these and similar instances, a student’s Resident Dean may formally refer the student for evaluation of substance use or psychological disorder to HUHS, ideally in consultation and cooperation with the student.

In the referral the Resident Dean will communicate both to the student and to the clinician the basis of the College’s concerns, and will make note of the referral in the student’s file. Should the student choose to decline the referral, then the Resident Dean and senior officers of the College will assess on the basis of available information whether it is appropriate for the student to continue in residence. For exceptional circumstances, the Dean of Harvard College may, if she deems it necessary and appropriate, place such a student on an involuntary leave of absence from the College.

Should a student accept the referral, he or she will meet with a HUHS clinician, who will assess the student’s use of alcohol or other drugs or psychological disorder, and make recommendations of further services to the student on the basis of that assessment. With the student’s knowledge, the clinician will inform the Resident Dean of the fact of the meeting, but will disclose no other information unless the student’s situation appears to pose an immediate threat to the student’s own life or safety or to that of others, or unless the student requests that information be shared.

Should problems associated with substance use or psychological disorder persist after the student has met with a clinician for an assessment and has received follow-up recommendations, the student’s Resident Dean may mandate the student’s participation in ongoing counseling or therapy. In this case, the Resident Dean will make a formal written referral to HUHS for the prospect of ongoing counseling or therapy, and so inform the student. The referral will summarize the reasons for the College’s concern and the requirement that the College be informed in the event that the student should fail to keep appointments, interrupt counseling against clinical advice, or otherwise undermine the therapeutic process. A student will receive a copy of the written referral, and a copy will remain in the student’s file.

After receiving the referral, HUHS clinicians will determine the appropriate nature and venue of services for addressing the student’s substance abuse or psychological disorder. These services may include individual counseling or therapy, medical evaluation by a primary care clinician, ongoing groups for students with substances abuse or behavioral disturbances, and/or other services available to students at HUHS. As with other clinical issues, in certain instances HUHS may deem it appropriate to make a referral of the student to an outside clinician or program. In the event that the student receives ongoing services from an outside resource, that clinician or program shall inform HUHS of the student’s compliance with treatment. HUHS will then have the right to communicate this information to the referring Resident Dean.

Should the student decline to participate in counseling, fail actively to engage in ongoing treatment, or continue to manifest behavioral disturbance, the College will assess whether the student may appropriately remain within the residential community and will reserve the right to terminate the student’s residence, if appropriate. In this instance too, the Dean of Harvard College may, if she deems it necessary and appropriate, place such a student on an involuntary leave of absence from the College. A student placed on leave may request to return to the College when clinicians at HUHS are able to conclude, with the student’s voluntary cooperation with their assessment, that the student may appropriately resume his or her participation in the College community.

Medical Clearance for Return to Residence

After a hospitalization or emergency room visit by one of its students, Harvard College will not permit that student to return to living on campus without making its own assessment of the suitability of the student returning to campus.

To better inform that assessment, Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) should be notified of any hospitalization or emergency department visit (617-495-5711). The Stillman Infirmary of HUHS is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to students who are temporarily unable to reside in a dormitory.

Reason for Policy

A student who is injured, ill, or exhibiting disturbing or disruptive behavior may require ongoing care. Serious alcohol- or drug-related problems, in particular, have the potential to disrupt dormitory life significantly and impair a student’s ability to function academically and socially. Harvard College regards as unreasonable the expectation that roommates, suitemates, friends, or residential staff will take on health care responsibilities for other students.

Any student may, of course, refuse to allow consultation between his or her clinician(s) and Harvard College, but such a refusal will not prevent the College from making a decision regarding a student’s return to residence.