Students May Be Liable for Guests

The Committee on Social Clubs presented a report yesterday recommending that student leaders be held personally responsible for “serious harm” related to alcohol consumption or hazing during student group gatherings.

According to the report discussed at yesterday’s meeting of the Committee on College Life (CCL), Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 and General Counsel Robert W. Iuliano ’83 called for the creation of the committee in response to two near-death incidents resulting from alcohol overdose in fall 2006.

“[W]here 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...and the individual or individuals directly responsible are not identified, the host or hosts of the event will be held personally responsible. If the hosts are also not identified, the officers of the organization will be held personally responsible,” the report reads.

The report noted that the Committee consulted CCL as well as “a select group of undergraduate students.” But it also notes that “the students with whom it consulted disagree” with the recommendation to hold student organization leaders accountable for members’ behavior at group events.

In correspondence with the College’s anti-hazing policies, all student groups, including those not officially recognized by the College, would be required to report their leadership contact information to the Office of the Dean of the College.

Other suggestions include the creation of a hazing information Web site and the incorporation of hazing and safe-drinking education into mandatory annual training for student groups.

In addition, the report proposes that the College’s “amnesty policy” be printed in the “Handbook for Students.” This policy states that when a student seeks medical assistance for a friend who is impaired by drugs or alcohol, neither student will face disciplinary action for alcohol or drug use.

The Committee on Social Clubs is chaired by Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd. Gross—who said he had not yet read the proposal—and Kidd declined to comment on the report.

Some students said that enforcing substance-use regulations must not be left to administrators alone.

“There is a serious problem when students are drinking themselves to death,” Student Affairs Committee Chair Michael R. Ragalie ’09 said.

“But the only way to make a lasting change in culture is with student involvement. I don’t think the Ad Board would have the practical ability or the moral authority to do this,” he added.

Ragalie also cited the vagueness of the report’s language as its “most negative feature,” saying that terms such as “potential for serious harm” need to be defined more clearly before any decisions are made about implementing the policies.

Dhrub Taneja ’07—the former president of the Harvard International Relations Council—said that the new report gives too much legal responsibility to group leaders.

“More student groups should be held to a higher standard but I don’t think student leaders should be held liable for one person acting irresponsibly,” he said. “It creates disincentives for student groups to host student events.”

—Rachel Pollack contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Elaine Chen can be reached at