Campus & Community

Alcohol and Health Committee established

3 min read

‘I want to be sure that we are doing everything we can’

As part of Harvard’s continuing effort to address issues of alcohol and health that have affected college-age students here and nationwide, Harvard’s provost and College dean have announced the formation of the Committee to Address Alcohol and Health at Harvard that will “work to review all institutional prevention, education, outreach and treatment services to reduce the negative health consequences associated with excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse.”

As stated in the committee’s charge, the committee of faculty, students, health care professionals and administrators “will focus on health related and educational issues. Among the areas to be reviewed include training of residential House staff, student orientation and outreach programs, impediments to healthy student social life, and available UHS [University Health Services] treatment services.” The committee also expects to “examine the scientific literature on the prevention of alcohol abuse and … research prevention and outreach models at other universities.”

“Harvard has been concerned about the issue of alcohol and health for a long time and has worked hard on the problem, in a variety of ways,” said Provost Steven E. Hyman. Above all, I’m concerned about the health and well-being of our students. Nationally, there have been increasing rates of heavy drinking among young people with all its attendant risks. I want to be sure that we are doing everything we can through education and early intervention to keep our students healthy and safe.”

“In light of these risks, Harvard is interested in seeing whether we can improve our existing educational, early detection, outreach, and health service programs,” said Benedict H. Gross, dean of Harvard College. “Our goal is to reduce the incidence of these negative health consequences, while at the same time making sure that those students who experience problems with alcohol feel comfortable enough to come forward and seek out medical help and treatment.”

Nationwide, heavy alcohol use is associated with a variety of problems for the individual student and the community as a whole. These include unintentional injuries, assault, unsafe sex, suicide, alcohol dependence, and academic problems. As Harvard learned last year in the April 2003 report from the Committee to Address Sexual Assault at Harvard, alcohol frequently plays a role in sexual assault incidents. The work of the Committee on Alcohol and Health should further Harvard’s efforts to prevent sexual assault as well as other negative health outcomes associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

“I believe this is a critical public health issue for our community, and I’m pleased that Steve Hyman and Dick Gross have put together this committee to look at this important set of issues,” added Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers.

The committee will consist of three students (two undergraduate and one graduate, as yet undetermined), two faculty members (Joseph L. Badaracco, committee chair; and Allan Brandt), two administrators (Tom Dingman and Jay Ellison) and three medical professionals (Chris Coley, Grace Chang, and Keli Ballinger). Susan Marine, director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, and Charles Ducey, director of the Bureau of Study Counsel, will also serve ex officio, and the committee will be staffed by Anna-Lisa Plant in the Dean of the College’s Office. Meetings will begin by November 2003 with a final report expected at the end of the academic year. A public forum is planned and the group will be seeking input from a variety of people around the University. A Web site will be established shortly.