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Faculty to Vote on Overhauling Alcohol Policy in Student Handbook

University Hall
University Hall in Harvard Yard.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences will review proposed updates to the College Student Handbook — including an overhaul of the College’s policies on drug and alcohol use — and decide the fate of “shopping week” at its last meeting of the semester Tuesday.

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana will present the proposed changes to the handbook for the 2019-2020 academic year to the Faculty for a vote. If approved, the updated handbook will largely alter the phrasing of the College’s “amnesty policy,” which grants intoxicated students under 21 exemption from University punishment in certain cases.

The new policy, dubbed the “Help-Seeking Policy,” continues the College’s practice of not disciplining students and bystanders for seeking medical treatment for intoxicated students. But while the original amnesty policy began with a pledge not to punish students, the new policy changes the original’s ordering and begins by stating administrators “expect students to abide by the law,” as well as Harvard drug and alcohol policies.

The College also eliminated multiple pages of rules from the handbook governing alcohol consumption in the Houses and at campus social events. The updated handbook omits a rule specifying that tutors must check in on all parties in the Houses, as well as regulations on House events including alcohol and on formals. The current handbook stipulates that event hosts must be present the entire time and verify attendees’ ages before serving them alcohol, but the proposed changes eliminate these rules completely.

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Administrators also cut a campus-wide rule that stated only beer, wine, and malt beverages with under 15 percent alcohol content could be served at College social events.

In a February interview, Khurana said the College was reviewing the amnesty policy in response to a fall report on the April 2018 forcible arrest of a black undergraduate. The arrest coincided with Yardfest, the College’s annual spring concert, which saw 17 medical transports for intoxication and overdoses in 2018, at least five times more than in 2017.

Khurana said in February that the review came in response to concerns that the policy’s wording was confusing, citing questions over what behavior it “encourages” among undergraduates.

The other changes to the handbook reflect proposals the Faculty has voted on during the 2018-2019 academic year, including updates to the language requirement which remove the specification that students must take a language with a written component. Another change reflects the establishment of a new concurrent bachelor’s and master’s degree program that will replace Advanced Standing, the College’s previous dual degree program.

The updated handbook also includes a new section on General Education, explaining the changes to the program that will take effect this fall. Under the new program, students must fulfill four General Education requirements, three distributional requirements, and a Quantitative Reasoning with Data requirement that the faculty plans to vote on at the Tuesday meeting.

Under the new Quantitative Reasoning requirement, students will have to take either a course that fulfilled the College’s previous Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning requirement, or a course from any department that FAS decides “will enable students to think critically about data.”

After months of research and deliberation, the full Faculty will also decide whether to keep “Shopping Week,” the time during which students can explore courses at the beginning of each semester before officially enrolling. A faculty committee tasked with studying the issue found insufficient evidence that shopping week alone was to blame for issues that some say plague the current system, including financial uncertainty for teaching fellows and reduced instruction time.

The committee proposed that the College keep shopping week until at least 2022. FAS will form a new committee to review course registration at that time. The proposal faced minimal resistance at last month’s Faculty meeting.

Multiple faculty members appeared more skeptical of legislation to establish a master’s degree in biotechnology, which would be overseen by Harvard Business School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Medical Anthropology Professor Arthur Kleinman, for example, asked for assurance that the proposed degree program would incorporate discussion of the “unintended consequences” of these medical innovations.

The Faculty will also vote to approve FAS and Harvard Extension School course offerings — including General Education courses that fulfill the College’s new requirements — for the 2019-2020 academic year at Tuesday’s meeting.

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at jonah.berger@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at molly.mccafferty@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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