Harvard Business School’s policy on drugs and alcohol—adapted from and in accordance with other similar policies at Harvard University—reflects our concern for the health and well-being of our students [1], faculty, and staff, and, along with The Harvard University Police Department’s Annual Security Report, is designed to ensure that we comply with the federal Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989.

The unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol by students, faculty, and staff or their guests on Harvard property or as a part of any Harvard activity are violations of HBS policy as well as the law. Possession, use, or distribution of certain non-prescription drugs, including marijuana, amphetamines, heroin, cocaine, and non-prescription 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 the law and of HBS policy. Harvard Business School’s policies and procedures also reflect additional expectations for student conduct based on concerns about high-risk drinking behaviors, such as binge drinking and the rapid or competitive consumption of alcohol, and their many adverse consequences for students’ health and lives.

All members of the HBS community are expected to comply with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and with all HBS rules governing possessing or serving alcohol.[2] HBS holds its students, faculty, and staff 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 prescribed) is a violation of HBS 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 on Harvard property or as part of a Harvard activity. Thus, even if possession or use of marijuana would be permitted under Massachusetts law, it remains prohibited on campus.

Health Concerns

Substance abuse is potentially harmful to health. In particular, synthetically-produced drugs often have unpredictable emotional and physical side effects that constitute an extreme health hazard. Students, faculty, and staff should also weigh the seriousness of potential loss of function that may come from using illicit drugs or drinking too much alcohol. Because of the considerable health risks involved in drug and alcohol use, resources are available to assist the community in understanding and dealing with drug and alcohol abuse problems. Help for students having alcohol or other drug problems is available on a confidential basis from the Center for Wellness and Health Promotion within Harvard University Health Services (HUHS). Faculty and staff members can learn about the dangers of substance abuse and get information about treatment and counseling options available to the Harvard community through Harvard University Health Services, and Harvard’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Additional health information is included in the Harvard University Police Department’s Annual Security Report.

Illegal Acts

Careful note should be taken that Harvard Business School is not and should not be considered to be a protector or sanctuary from the existing laws of the city, state, or federal government. A social host may under certain circumstances be held liable for injuries caused by a guest who, having consumed alcohol on the host’s premises, does harm to himself or herself or to a third party. In addition, a social host will be liable for injuries to third parties if the host knew or should have known that the guest was intoxicated, but nevertheless gave him or her, or permitted him or her to take, an alcoholic drink.

Community members are reminded that there are heavy penalties, including imprisonment, for possession or distribution of illicit drugs. There are also serious penalties for anyone who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with an open container of alcohol.

Responsible Social Events

Harvard Business School expects students, faculty, and staff in leadership roles (e.g., club presidents or program chairs) to create safe and responsible social environments. Those hosting events must take reasonable steps to ensure that the acquisition, distribution, and consumption of alcohol otherwise complies with applicable law and University policy.

A. Alcohol Service for HBS Events

All alcoholic beverages at events on the HBS campus – including residence hall lounges and other common spaces – must be provided and served by Restaurant Associates (log-in required). Additionally:

  • Donated alcohol is not permitted.
  • In accordance with the HBS liquor license, hard liquor may not be served or present at on-campus events.
  • Alcohol is not permitted in classrooms or classroom buildings, with the exception of catered events (e.g., receptions) that take place in and adjacent to the flat floor classrooms in Batten Hall (the Hives) and the Chao Center.
  • If alcohol is being served, food must also be served.
  • Events with alcohol are limited to four (4) hours in duration.
  • Restaurant Associates guidelines limit the supply of alcohol at any given event to accommodate one (1) drink per hour for each guest. State law requires all guests to show valid photo identification before being served (a driver’s license, valid passport, or military ID).
  • In the interests of health and safety, HBS does not permit scheduling of back-to-back events where alcohol will be served to the same audience.
  • Security personnel, at the host’s expense, may be required for events where alcohol will be served.

B. Alcohol Policy for Campus Residential Facilities

Residence hall common rooms, main lounges, and other shared spaces—including the immediately adjacent outdoor gathering areas—may be used by their respective residents and invited guests for small, informal social gatherings that include responsible alcohol consumption.

  • Alcohol consumption must comply with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • Only beer and wine are allowed in these common spaces (no distilled or hard liquor), and only in reasonable quantities (i.e., cans or bottles) intended for personal consumption. Large quantities of alcohol (i.e., kegs or cases) are not permitted.
  • Residents and guests participating in social gatherings must be mindful of noise and impact to neighbors and other community members.
  • Residents and guests are responsible for leaving any common space clean after their gathering, including recycling empty cans, bottles, or cups.
  • Harvard Business School, via HBS Security, HUPD, or other authorized personnel, reserves the right to shut down or break up a gathering if it is determined to be a disruption or present a hazard to those present or in the vicinity.

Disciplinary Action

Harvard Business School may take disciplinary action against students who violate these policies. Sanctions may include, for example: satisfactory participation in a substance abuse treatment or counseling program; loss of room reservation privileges; involuntary withdrawal or suspension; termination of employment; and/or referral for prosecution.

Amnesty Policy

Any student may bring an intoxicated or drug-impaired friend to Harvard University Health Services or to a hospital, or seek assistance from their Program or HUPD (intoxicated or drug-impaired students also may seek assistance for themselves), and by doing so, neither they nor the friend will face disciplinary action at HBS for having used or provided alcohol or drugs, although they may be referred to a substance abuse education program.[3]

  1. Students include Doctoral students, MBA students, and Executive Education participants.
  2. Members of the community with affiliations at Harvard that extend beyond HBS—including PhD students, Joint Degree students, and joint faculty appointments—are responsible for understanding and abiding by the policies at each department or School.
  3. Students with affiliations at Harvard that extend beyond HBS—including PhD students and Joint Degree students—should be sure they understand the relevant policy at each School.