A single administrator should oversee all alcohol-related issues at the College, and the administration should better articulate its alcohol policies to students, recommended a 13-member committee on alcohol abuse in a report released yesterday.
The Committee to Address Alcohol and Health at Harvard—consisting of faculty, administrators and undergraduates—also suggested that the College develop a “working relationship” with unrecognized social groups such as final clubs, sororities and fraternities, as well as the inclusion of students in crafting educational initiatives.
Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 created the committee last fall after a record rise in the number of students admitted to University Health Services (UHS) because of alcohol poisoning.
“The main goal is to reduce heavy drinking, via educational and therapeutic programs,” Gross told The Crimson last October. “I’m doing this because I think it’s a serious health problem.”
Yesterday’s report echoed Gross’ educational focus by pushing for better student understanding on the risks associated with dangerous drinking.
“This is not a Trojan horse for anything else for more control. We just want to avoid tragedies,” committee chair and Currier House Master Joseph L. Badaracco said.
The report emphasized the College’s delicate balance between its legal mandate to prevent the use of illicit substances and its responsibility to student health.
Current College policy states that students may seek help from UHS, residential staff or the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) without risking disciplinary action. But many students are confused or unaware of this policy, the report said.
“There’s a kind of wariness, where if you’re feeling bad because you’ve been drinking, to call the police because people associate the police with some kind of wrongdoing,” Badaracco said. “We’re trying to overcome fairly common assumptions about UHS and the police.”
To improve outreach, the report also advocated for more student involvement in designing alcohol education.
“We envisioned students advising at different points on things like: what’s the right message to use, what’s likely to work, how will students react to alcohol,” Badaracco said.
The report also called for a new administrator to oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations and to coordinate the College’s alcohol-related programs.
The proposed post was the third coordinating position at the College suggested in the last two years—it followed the creation of Barreira’s position and one to oversee sexual assault issues.
Badaracco said that the proposed administrator should have specific knowledge in current medical and academic research on college alcohol problems and experience with student outreach. He said the College could possibly tap someone currently working in this capacity at a peer institution.
If created, the position would fall under the post of Director of University Counseling, Academic Support and Mental Health Services Paul J. Barreira.