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UHS Alcohol Admissions Up

In mandatory meeting, tutors discuss safe drinking strategies

The number of students admitted to Harvard University Health Services for alcohol-related illnesses last semester nearly matched the total number of cases treated during the entire previous year, according to tutors who attended a meeting yesterday on advising and alcohol.

At the meeting—a mandatory gathering for all resident tutors—Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds and University Provost Steven E. Hyman presented data detailing the number of alcohol-related cases treated at UHS’s Stillman Infirmary over the past several years, tutors said.

“The number of students admitted for the fall [was] pretty high in comparison to previous yearly totals,” said Marta E. Sobur, a resident tutor in Lowell House. “We were a little surprised.”

Ashwin Kaja ’07, a resident tutor in Kirkland House, noted that a higher number of UHS visits might not mean that students are drinking more copiously or more frequently.

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“It could also reflect a positive trend that efforts to convince students to seek medical help when they need it are also taking effect,” Kaja said.

The bulk of the session was dedicated to a discussion among tutors about how they should talk about drinking-related issues with the students in their Houses and address dangerous drinking when it occurs.

“It’s always about building a trusting relationship with the students,” said Lowell House tutor Van C. Tran.

Despite University policy which, in accordance with Massachusetts law, forbids students under the age of 21 from consuming alcohol, Tran said that some tutors yesterday emphasized the importance of advising students to drink in moderation rather than counseling them not to drink at all.

Sobur said that the focus of the meeting was on sharing past experiences and time-tested tactics for interacting with students rather than on discussing the College’s formal policies toward alcohol use.

Adams Resident Dean Sharon L. Howell said that the meeting sparked conversations among tutors which she anticipates will continue throughout the semester.

“This is something that we really need to work together on and there will be lots of opportunities to weigh in along the way,” Howell said.

Some tutors said that they believe the College plans to publicly release the data on alcohol-related infirmary admissions.

Though he was not sure what triggered the meeting, Tran said that a winter gathering of all resident tutors is unusual.

“We have always had an orientation week at the beginning of every year in September,” Tran said.“Over the past six years...we never quite had this sort of mid-year orientation.”

The first portion of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of sophomore advising.

Spokespersons for Hammonds and Hyman did not provide comment last night.

The Director of the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Services Ryan M. Travia did not return requests for comment last night.

­—Staff writer Stephanie B. Garlock can be reached at sgarlock@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Julie M. Zauzmer can be reached at jzauzmer@college.harvard.edu.

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