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Student Handbook: Policy on Illicit Substances

Alcohol and Drugs

Harvard expects its students and employees to maintain an environment that is safe and healthy. The university is not, and cannot be considered, a sanctuary from existing federal, state and local laws. 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 nonprescription drugs, including marijuana, amphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and nonprescription 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 law and of Harvard policy. Although Massachusetts law now permits adults aged 21 or older to possess and consume marijuana under certain circumstances, federal law prohibits the possession, use, or distribution of marijuana, including for medical purposes, on Harvard property or as part of a Harvard activity. Thus, even if possession of use of marijuana would be permitted under Massachusetts law, it remains prohibited on campus.

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 described) is a violation of university policy. Harvard expects students and employees to create and maintain an environment for learning and work that is safe and healthy and that encourages responsible conduct. The Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) will enforce Massachusetts drinking laws and federal and state drug laws.

More information, including about: standards of conduct and disciplinary sanctions; federal, state and local laws and sanctions; health risks associated with alcohol and drug use; and resources for Harvard students and employees can be found in the university’s Annual Security Report, published by the Harvard University Police Department.

HGSE Events

Any event held on HGSE property at which alcohol will be served must also provide nonalcoholic beverages and food. Persons wishing to be served alcoholic beverages must demonstrate proof of minimum drinking age by showing valid identification bearing their date of birth to the designated person(s) serving alcoholic beverages. Individuals who are or appear to be intoxicated will not be served alcoholic beverages.

For HGSE events held outside the school, organizers must ensure that any outside organization or vendor (such as a hotel, cruise ship, or other facility) has a clear policy and practice of serving alcohol only to those of legal drinking age.


Because of the considerable health 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 University Health Services, as well as from the director of student affairs and other officers of the university. The university’s educational effort on the health risks associated with the use and abuse of alcohol is coordinated by the Center for Wellness and Health Communication (“CWHC”), which publishes a number of pamphlets of an educational nature and sponsors programs for the Harvard community. CWHC health educators and trained peer educators are available to consult with students and student groups on a variety of topics, including the abuse of alcohol and drugs; the CWHC contact number is 617-495-9629. Any member of the university may make use of Health Services on an emergency basis, day or night.

Other ongoing programs and support organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon meet frequently in the Cambridge area. Meeting lists for the Harvard Square area are available in the CWHC.

Disciplinary Actions

The Dean’s Office may take disciplinary action when cases involving alcohol and drugs come to its attention. Officers of HGSE may initially respond to cases involving the use of illicit drugs or over-consumption of alcohol with a warning and/or referral to health counseling services. However, serious violations of these rules or a pattern of behavior in violation of these rules may lead to censure, probation, requirement to withdraw, dismissal, or expulsion by the Dean’s Office or the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities (CRR). The CRR will take serious action, up to and including expulsion, in any case involving the possession in quantity or the sale or distribution of drugs or in cases where the use of drugs and alcohol posed a danger to individuals or to the community at large. The Dean’s Office or the appointed CRR also will take serious action when a student participates in the falsification of identification with the intent of obtaining alcohol; ordinarily, the response to the production and distribution of false identification cards or driver’s licenses is probation or dismissal.