Drugs and Alcohol

Health Concerns

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

Grounds for Referral

Referral Letter

AODS Interventions

Monitoring Student Compliance

Responsible Social Events

Summary of City, State, and Federal Laws and Regulations

Private Parties in the Houses

Social Events on Campus

Student Organization Leaders

Disciplinary Action

Amnesty Policy

Usual Responses

Student Groups

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.

College policies and procedures also reflect additional expectations for student conduct based on the College's concerns about high-risk drinking behaviors, such as binge drinking and the rapid or competitive consumption of alcohol, and their many adverse consequences for students' health and lives. All students are expected to comply with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and with all College rules governing possessing or serving alcohol. More information is available at your House website or the website for the Office of Student 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 (HUHS), as well from Allston Burr Assistant Deans or Resident Deans of Freshmen 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 Interventions/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 of Freshmen or Allston Burr Assistant Dean based on incidents that come to their attention or as a result of Administrative Board action. Interventions with AODS are not intended to take the place of routine advising conversations between Allston Burr Assistant Deans or Resident Deans of Freshmen and students. Rather, they provide an opportunity for structured consultation, 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 an Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen or the Administrative Board to refer a student for an intervention with AODS about his or her known or suspected alcohol or drug use:

  • a medical complication resulting from alcohol or drug use (e.g., aspiration, traumatic accident, alcohol poisoning, seizure, blackout, overdose, infection from intravenous use);
  • repeated incidents related to alcohol or drug use that require medical intervention;
  • a serious behavioral or disciplinary problem related to alcohol or drug use;
  • disruption in the residential community or academic environment related to alcohol or drug use;
  • academic difficulties or other problems in functioning related to misuse of alcohol or drugs; or
  • repeated minor infraction of rules regarding alcohol or drug use.

Referral Letter

The Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen makes the referral for an intervention 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 that the student is expected to schedule the appointment(s) with an AODS staff member and complete the designated program within a specified time of receiving the letter (ordinarily, no more than three weeks) and is to comply with all of the provider's recommendations. It is also made clear in the referral letter that, should the student choose to decline the referral, the Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen 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. For more information on this topic, see the Handbook section on Life in the Harvard Community, under the sub-heading “Consultations and Interventions for Behavioral Disturbances Due to Alcohol or Drug Abuse and Psychological Disturbances.” 

AODS Interventions

The AODS staff member will meet with the student individually for either an Individual Consultation or for two BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening & Intervention for College Students) sessions. Ordinarily, students who are admitted to HUHS for alcohol intoxication, or for cases involving marijuana and/or other drugs, are referred for individual consultations and students treated at a hospital for alcohol intoxication are referred to BASICS. Both interventions involve discussing the student’s substance use history and circumstances surrounding the referral, and may then direct the student to further resources. Resources include, but are not limited to, alcohol education (Individual Consultations or BASICS), further assessment, ongoing counseling, and/or substance abuse groups, offered through Counseling & Mental Health Services. 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

During the intervention, the AODS staff member will seek permission from the student to contact the appropriate College officer (typically, the student’s Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen) regarding the student’s attendance and participation in the session(s) and what further action, if any, is recommended. Authorized release forms are used as necessary.

It is the responsibility of the Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen, 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.

Responsible Social Events

Harvard College is committed to supporting a residential and educational community that is culturally, intellectually, and socially enriching for our students. A healthy and satisfying social life is an important aspect of the undergraduate experience and plays a vital role in developing the bonds of friendship, collegiality, and community. While alcohol may have a place in social activities, its role is ancillary to the mission and purpose of our residential and educational community.

The College encourages students to socialize and interact with each other in safe and healthy ways. We favor a multifaceted approach to alcohol education, policy, and practice that prioritizes student health and safety and promotes student welfare. We encourage responsible social behavior in a variety of ways, including educating the community through peer education programs such as Drug & Alcohol Peer Advisers (DAPA) and Consent Advocates & Relationship Educators (CARE). We implemented the Amnesty Policy to help ensure that students seek medical care for their peers. Each year, we dedicate significant resources to support a wide range of alcohol-free programming alternatives at the House, Yard, and campus-wide levels.

At the same time, we expect students to make responsible choices, particularly if they decide to use alcohol. College students are adults, and the College expects them to exercise their rights and responsibilities in accordance with the law and Harvard policy. The University is not a sanctuary from the existing laws of the city, state, or federal government. Students must recognize the consequences of their personal decisions as well as the impact those decisions can have on themselves, others, and the wider College community. They are accountable for their actions and are expected to uphold the standards of decency and respect that govern our community of teachers and learners.

Summary of City, State, and Federal Laws and Regulations

1. The sale, delivery, or furnishing of alcohol to persons under the age of 21 is prohibited.

2. The possession or transportation of alcoholic beverages by individuals under the age of 21 is prohibited.

3. Social hosts may be held liable for injuries caused by guests who consume alcohol at the hosts’ premises and then harm themselves or third parties.

4. Willfully misrepresenting one's age or altering, defacing, or otherwise falsifying identification offered as proof of age, with the intent of purchasing alcoholic beverages is prohibited.

5. 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.

6. The consumption of alcohol on public property or on property open to the public is prohibited.

All students are expected to comply with all applicable city, state, and federal laws and regulations as well as with all College rules governing the use and possession of alcohol. The College does not permit transportation or consumption of alcoholic beverages in open containers in public areas on campus.

Policies and Procedures Governing Private Parties in the Houses

1. Students who are 21 years of age or older are permitted to possess, store, and consume alcohol in their assigned rooms.

2. Students who wish to host private parties with alcohol must be at least 21 years of age. If the private party is to be held in a suite, the hosts must be residents of the room in which the private party will be held.

3. All private parties must be registered with and approved by the House. Houses may determine the deadlines and means of submitting registrations provided the following minimum requirements are met:

a. Student hosts must meet with their tutor prior to hosting their first private party of the academic year.

b. Student hosts must demonstrate a satisfactory understanding of strategies to create safe social environments as well as their understanding of the applicable laws and policies governing alcohol, including responsibilities for social hosts.

c. Student hosts must acknowledge responsibility for compliance with all applicable laws and policies.

4. Private parties are by personal invitation only. When choosing how many students to invite, a host should be mindful of the number of students permitted to be present in the suite at one time (see section 11 below). Advertising is prohibited. Use of social media is only permitted in the context of private and directed invitations. (e.g. private messages on Facebook, direct message on Twitter).

5. Host(s) of private parties must be present for the entire event, monitor the event, and make sure there is no underage or unsafe drinking.

6. Ample water, non-alcoholic beverages, and food must be provided for the duration of any private party or event at which alcohol will be available. Water and non-alcoholic beverages must be as visible and accessible as the alcoholic beverages that are being served. Adequate food also must be provided. Alcohol may not be served at an event until water, non-alcoholic beverages, and food are also available; alcohol may not be served if the water, non-alcoholic beverages, or food become unavailable.

7. The amount of alcohol purchased must be scaled for the reasonably anticipated number of attendees of legal drinking age.

8. Activities that promote high-risk drinking, such as excessive and/or rapid consumption of alcohol, particularly of a competitive nature, are not permitted. It is expected that hosts will plan parties where drinking is not the central activity.

9. Tutors or other House residential staff will check in at least once throughout the course of each private party.

10. If a tutor has concerns that a private party is not being managed well, then the tutor will speak with the host(s) about the concerns, require that the host(s) resolve the concerns, and check the event again after a short time. If the concerns are not properly addressed, then the tutor will take steps to shut down the event.

11. Private parties are limited to the number of students that can be safely in the suite, as determined by the House.

12. At the discretion of the House, where the architecture of student suites makes them unsuitable for private parties, House common spaces may be used by student residents who wish to host private parties. In such cases, the rules provided in this section apply.

Policies and Procedures Governing Social Events on Campus

1. For the purpose of this policy, “social events on campus” mean any organized functions held in House common areas (e.g. Junior Common Rooms, Dining Halls, Grilles) or non-residential facilities (e.g. the Student Organization Center at Hilles, Ticknor Lounge) where alcohol is served.

2. All social events on campus must be registered and approved. See Additional Policies and Procedures Related to Specific Types of Social Events for specific registration and approval requirements.

a. Alcohol is generally permitted only at social events that are limited to members of the Harvard community and their escorted guests. In certain limited circumstances alcohol also may be permitted at day or evening events that are open to the public, but only with prior approval of the Office of Student Life.

b. Alcohol is never permitted at late-night social events that are open and advertised to attendees beyond the Harvard community.

3. Ample water, non-alcoholic beverages, and food must be provided for the duration of any social event at which alcohol will be available. Water and non-alcoholic beverages must be as visible and accessible as the alcoholic beverages that are being served. Adequate food also must be provided. Alcohol may not be served at an event until water, non-alcoholic beverages, and food are also available; alcohol may not be served if the water, non-alcoholic beverages, or food become unavailable.

4. Age Verification, Alcohol Service, and Monitoring

a. Proper verification of age is required at social events on campus where alcohol is served.

b. Acceptable identification for age verification of Harvard affiliates is a valid state or government ID accompanied by a Harvard University ID. Failure to have both of these pieces of identification will result in a request for additional forms of ID, and may result in the denial of alcohol service. Non-Harvard guests must show at least two forms of ID, one of which must be a valid state or government ID.

c. A “best practices” system for making sure that alcohol is provided only to those who are of age must be established and implemented. One such system is to identify those who are 21 and older by a non-transferable identifier (e.g. wristbands).

d. Social event attendees will not be served more than one alcoholic beverage at a time.

e. For social events on campus with alcohol that are hosted by student organizations, Houses, or College offices or centers, a Student Event Services (SES) Team (comprised of TIPS – Training for Intervention Procedures – trained bartenders) must be engaged to handle both age verification and the service of alcohol. With the approval of the Office of Student Life, College offices or centers may choose instead to use a licensed and insured vendor to provide bartending service.

f. In the case of small House events where attendance is limited only to the residents of the host House, either a member of the House residential life staff or a member of an SES Team may handle age verification. A member of the SES Team, the House residential life staff, or the student organizers (provided they are of legal drinking age) may serve the alcohol.

g. Throughout the duration of all social events on campus, those in charge of age verification and alcohol service must continue to monitor and ensure that alcohol is not provided to students who are under 21 and that students who are of legal drinking age are not over-served. If any non-compliance is not corrected, then the event will be terminated.

h. In the case of House events, member(s) of the House staff must be present for the duration of the event. If a staff member has concerns that the event is not being properly monitored (for example, IDs are not being checked to identify those who are over or under 21, alcohol is being provided to those under 21, or alcohol is being consumed by those under 21), the staff member will speak with the host(s) about these concerns and ensure that the identified issues are corrected.

5. Quantity and Types of Alcohol

a. The amount of alcohol purchased must be scaled for the reasonably anticipated number of attendees of legal drinking age.

b. With the approval of Faculty Dean or authorized designee for House events and College staff for other campus events, kegs are generally permitted in the Houses and at College events, although they continue to be banned at athletic facilities and athletic events. Students must comply with all House or other protocols for registration, storage, and disposal of kegs.

c. Only beer, wine, and malt beverages may be served at social events on campus. These beverages must not have an alcohol content that exceeds 15 percent.

d. “Bring Your Own Beer/Booze” (BYOB) events are not permitted. All alcohol served at an event must be purchased and provided by the event host(s).

6. Serving Times

a. The service of alcohol at social events on campus may not last longer than five hours. With the exception of events that are two hours or less, last call must occur 30 minutes prior to the scheduled conclusion of the event and alcohol service must end 15 minutes prior to the scheduled conclusion of the event.

7. Advertising 

a. Printed and electronic posters for social events on campus may mention alcohol, provided they use the following specific and approved language:

i. “Non-alcoholic beverages available. Beer 21+”

ii.“Non-alcoholic beverages available. Beer and wine 21+”

b. Only the Office of Student Life may approve variations to this standard language for campus-wide advertisements, regardless of where the event is to be held. A House may approve variations to the standard language for events to be held within the House and advertised only within the House. Advertisements may contain no other references to alcohol, including without limitation: price of alcoholic beverages; types of beers, wines, or mixed drinks available; or photos or logos of alcoholic beverages.

8. Licenses

a. If there will be a direct charge (such as a cash bar) or indirect charge (such as an event admission fee) for alcohol, a one-day alcohol license from the City of Cambridge is required.

b. An officer of the University will obtain alcohol licenses for College-sponsored events.

c. Social events on campus licensed by the City of Cambridge must conclude no later than 2 a.m. Social events in the Houses not requiring a license must conclude at a reasonable time, as determined by the Faculty Dean and House Committee. Social events in other campus locations not requiring a license must conclude at a reasonable time, as determined by OSL.

9. Other Regulations

a. Activities that promote high-risk drinking, such as excessive and/or rapid consumption of alcohol, particularly of a competitive nature, are not permitted. It is expected that hosts will plan parties where drinking is not the central activity.

b. Alcohol companies, services, or distributors may not provide support (i.e. monetary, gifts in kind, products) for social events on campus.

c. To comply with fire safety regulations, events in spaces without Certificates of Inspection may not exceed capacity of 49 persons.

d. Police security is required when the event is open to the broader Harvard College community and may otherwise be required at the discretion of the Faculty Dean, Allston Burr Assistant Dean or Resident Dean of Freshmen, or OSL.

Additional Policies and Procedures Related to Specific Types of Social Events

In addition to the policies and procedures set forth above, the following policies and procedures also apply to certain social events with alcohol.

1. Small House Committee and House Events (e.g. Stein Clubs, Happy Hours, House Dinners)

a. Events can only be advertised in the host House and must follow the guidelines outlined in the House Committee Events Resource (available through the OSL).

b. Events are limited to House residents and their invited guests. Guests must present a college or valid government or state ID and be signed in by their hosts at the door.

2. Large House Events (e.g. Formals, House Dances, House Theatre)

a. Approval for all such events is required from both the House and OSL. The event must be registered through the OSL at rooms.college.harvard.edu and follow all guidelines related to event registration, ticketing, and management in the HoCo Events Resource.

b. Large House events are ordinarily held in a common area of a House. In special cases, with the approval of the Faculty Dean and OSL, an event may be held in an outside facility, but only if adequate arrangements for transportation have been made and the off-campus venue is licensed to serve alcohol, if alcohol is to be served.

c. Events are generally limited to House residents and their invited guests, but in some cases, at the discretion of the House and OSL, other members of the Harvard community may be invited. Guests must present a college or valid government or state ID and be signed in by their hosts at the door.

d. Events must be ticketed through the Harvard Box Office and must follow all applicable guidelines for capacity.

e. If the event is held in the Quad, additional shuttles from Harvard Transportation Services will be provided by OSL.

f. Transportation back to campus is required for late-night events sponsored by the College and held off campus. The sponsoring House, Office, or Center must arrange and pay for transportation.

g. Events must end no later than 11:00 PM Sunday-Thursday, and 2:00 a.m. Friday-Saturday. The only exception to this rule is that, with prior permission from the Faculty Dean and OSL, House Formals held Sunday-Thursday may end at any time up to 2:00 a.m.

3. Student Organization Events:

a. Student organization events with alcohol held in House common areas and non-residential facilities must be registered with the OSL. All House and facility-specific registration requirements must also be met in order for such events to be approved.

b. SES Beverage Servers are required when alcohol is served. SES Event Supervisors may be required to monitor events to ensure that student hosts are effectively implementing the Event Plan established with the OSL.

c. Policies relating to Student Organization events can be found online at the OSL website.  

PILOT PROGRAM FOR 2016-2017 permitting mixed drinks at House Formals only

During the 2016-17 academic year, the College will again permit mixed drinks (drinks containing hard liquor) to be served at House formals held on or off campus only if the following conditions are met:

a. The kinds of mixed drinks to be served must be approved in advance by both the Faculty Deans and the OSL.

b. All drinks containing hard liquor must include mixers and may not contain more than one standard measure of alcohol.

c. Professional bartenders from a licensed and insured vendor approved by OSL must be hired to mix and serve drinks.

d. Beer, wine, and malt beverages can be served open bar. Mixed drinks may only be offered for purchase or limited drink ticket system developed and approved by the Faculty Deans and OSL to ensure that appropriate limits are in place.

Student Organization Leaders

Officers of all student groups (whether or not such group is officially recognized by the College) are leaders in the Harvard community, and the College 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 and Other Drug Services and OSL, which may include, training on event planning, risk reduction, and the responsible service of alcohol.

Disciplinary Action

The University requires all students to become familiar with the information on drugs and alcohol distributed at registration each year. 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 consumption of alcohol or drugs took place at an event held, sponsored, organized or supported by a student group and the person who seeks 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 with respect to the other members of the group. Conversely, the College will consider the failure to seek assistance by members of the student group as a factor when determining the appropriateness of any such 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 AODS. A pattern of behavior in violation of rules governing their use or possession will lead to warning by the Faculty Dean 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 cannot 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 set forth 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 Student Life for a conversation about their procedures for hosting responsible social events and may be asked to participate in additional education or training efforts.