Policies Regarding Drugs and Alcohol

Harvard University promotes the health and well-being of its students and employees through its Health Services and other agencies.

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, is a violation of University rules as well as the law. Possession, use, or distribution of certain nonprescription drugs, including amphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and nonprescription synthetics; procurement or distribution of alcohol if one is under twenty-one years of age; and provision of alcohol to anyone under twenty-one 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 marijuana would be permitted under Massachusetts law, it remains prohibited on campus.  Additionally, the misuse of prescription drugs (sharing, buying, or using in a manner different than that prescribed) is a violation of University policy.  

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. Further, it expects students and employees to create and maintain an environment for learning and work that is safe and healthy and encourages responsible conduct.

The use of illicit drugs and the misuse of alcohol are potentially harmful to health. In particular, synthetically produced drugs, which are readily available in the Boston metropolitan area, often have unpredictable emotional and physical side effects that constitute an extreme health hazard. In addition, students are encouraged to weigh the seriousness of potential loss of function that may come from ingesting illicit drugs or too much alcohol. Because of the considerable health hazards involved in drug and alcohol use, administrative, medical, and psychiatric help for students having drug problems or difficulties controlling their use of alcohol are available on a confidential basis from the GSAS Dean’s Office and other offices of the University, and at Harvard University Health Services. Any member of the University may make use of the Health Services on an emergency basis, day and night.

Attention is directed to the fact that the University is not, and cannot be considered as, a protector or sanctuary from existing laws of the city, state, or federal government. Students are reminded that there are heavy penalties, including imprisonment, for possession or distribution of illicit drugs and for selling or delivering alcohol to, or procuring alcohol for, someone under twenty-one. There are also serious penalties for anyone under the age of twenty-one who purchases, attempts to purchase, or arranges to procure alcoholic beverages, or to misrepresent his or her age or falsify his or her identification with the intent of purchasing alcohol; anyone, regardless of age, caught falsifying a driver’s license, or selling or distributing false IDs; and anyone, regardless of age, who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with an open container of alcohol. In addition, the city of Cambridge prohibits consumption of alcohol on public property or on property open to the public.

Consistent with the legal sanctions for the inappropriate use of drugs and alcohol, the Graduate School will take disciplinary action when cases of this type come to its attention. Officers of the University will respond to the use of illicit drugs, underage possession or consumption of alcohol, the serving of alcohol to underage individuals, and overconsumption of alcohol with warning and/or referral to health or counseling services. A pattern of behavior in violation of these rules may lead to a warning by the dean for student affairs, admonition by the Administrative Board, probation, or requirement to withdraw.

The Administrative Board will take serious actions, including probation and requirement to withdraw, in any case involving the possession in quantity or the sale or distribution of drugs, in cases involving a student falsifying his or her identification with the intent of obtaining alcohol, or when cases of drug and alcohol use involve danger to the community.