Student Alcohol and Drug Policy

The College recognizes that there are numerous health risks associated with substance use. Similarly, substance use can lead to legal consequences and poor academic performance in addition to having a greater impact on the larger community, contributing to a host of other potential consequences (e.g., violence, social conflict and property destruction). Therefore, the harmful use of substances is considered a public health problem and the College has identified resources to reduce the harmful use of substances at Mount Holyoke College. 

With the help of the Be Well initiative, the College provides information regarding alcohol and drug use and urges all community members to take advantage of the opportunity to become educated and make informed choices regarding the use of substances. The College encourages those with concerns about their own or others’ difficulties with alcohol and/or other drugs to seek confidential assistance through Counseling Service. The College strives to provide:

  • An atmosphere free of coercion for those who choose not to use alcohol and drugs.
  • Information and education for all students to make informed choices regarding the use of substances.
  • A community where the effects of alcohol and drug use are minimal and where problem behavior is reduced.
  • Confidential and effective guidance and counseling for students with issues related to substance use.

The following policy outlines the importance of the health and safety of students, compliance with state and federal laws regarding the use, possession, purchase, sale and distribution of alcohol and drugs, and highlights the College’s educational mission to inform students so they can make responsible life choices regarding their use of substances.

Alcohol Policy Guidelines

Mount Holyoke College’s Alcohol Policy is guided by and abides by law outlined by the commonwealth of Massachusetts and the town of South Hadley, Massachusetts. The acquisition, possession, transportation, consumption and distribution of alcoholic beverages is governed by statute and regulation. See the full text of the law.

  • A person must be 21 years of age or older to purchase, possess, consume and transport alcoholic beverages.
  • Use or possession of alcoholic beverages by any persons under the age of 21 years of age is prohibited.
  • The presence, possession, or use of kegs by individuals or groups other than at a registered, approved event is prohibited on the College campus.
  • Persons 21 years of age and over may use alcohol in the privacy of their rooms providing all guidelines governing guests, noise and appropriate behavior are followed.
  • Consumption of alcohol in unapproved areas (e.g., residence hall public space, stairways, corridors, elevators, bathrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, laundry rooms, academic buildings, etc.) will result in disciplinary action.
  • Possession of open containers of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in public/common areas or on the grounds of the College, except at registered events or licensed facilities.
  • Students requiring medical assistance and/or transport to the hospital for care for the overconsumption of alcohol, whether of legal age or not, is a violation of the alcohol policy and may qualify for medical amnesty. 
  • Students under the legal drinking age cannot serve or host alcohol in their residence hall room, including instances where the alcohol is in the possession of or is the property of a person of legal drinking age.

All student groups are also held to the Alcohol Policy and Guidelines for Student Events, which can be found in the Student Organization Handbook. All student events require a sponsor(s) or social chairperson(s) who would be responsible for placing an Alcohol Beverage Service Request.

Drug Policy Guidelines

Members of the College community are expected to follow applicable federal and state laws regarding the use of controlled substances. For the purposes of this policy, controlled substances include over-the-counter medications, prescribed medication not used as indicated or prescribed, illegal drugs, and chemical substances not used for their intended purpose. Federal, state and local sanctions for unlawful possession or distribution of illicit drugs range from probation and forfeiture of property to fines and imprisonment.

The use, cultivation, manufacture, sale, distribution, and/or possession of drugs or controlled substances in violation of federal, state, or municipal laws is prohibited by the College and is not permitted in the residence halls, on any College property, or while on College business.

Violations of the drug policy include but are not limited to:

  • Possession or use of illegal drugs and controlled substances.
  • The non-medical use of prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications.
  • Failure to report the use, cultivation, manufacture, sale, distribution, and/or possession of illegal substances on any College property to a College official.
  • Knowing presence during the use of illegal drugs or the misuse of substances.

Enforcement of the Alcohol and Drug Policy

The College recognizes that it cannot guarantee that this policy or the alcohol or drug-related laws will be honored by everyone. It must therefore rely on the good judgment of students, faculty, staff and other members of the College community to observe the laws and policies. Those who choose to violate them must be prepared to accept total responsibility for their individual or collective actions and should understand that possible outcomes include disciplinary action, personal liability, fines and/or imprisonment. Students who violate state or federal laws will not be protected by the College and their actions may be subject to civil or criminal complaints. Mount Holyoke College will not intervene on an individual’s behalf with campus, local or state law enforcement authorities. Public Safety & Service always have the option to arrest. 

Violations of the alcohol and drug policies and dangerous or disruptive behavior that often come with alcohol and drug use will be handled by the usual general judiciary procedure under the honor code. 

The involvement of alcohol and drugs with dangerous or disruptive behavior will be considered an exacerbating factor, not a mitigating one. If a student does not choose to follow these policies, the student may receive sanctions ranging from a written warning to suspension or expulsion, depending on the severity of the offense.

Violations and Sanctions

If you are under 21

Violations

  • Possession and consumption of alcohol under age of 21.
  • Possession of alcohol or drug paraphernalia associated with dangerous consumption.
  • Dispensing alcohol.
  • Intoxication.
  • Possession/use of illegal drugs or probable cause to believe there was use.
1st offense 2nd offense 3rd offense
Meeting with Residential Life. Meeting with Residential Life or a dean in the Division of Student Life. Meeting with a dean in the Division of Student Life.
AOD-focused Educational Project. AOD-focused Educational Project. Parental notification.
  Disciplinary probation. Disciplinary probation.
  Possible parental notification. Possible housing probation and suspension.
    Possible withdrawal.

Violations

  • Selling/distributing illegal drugs.
1st offense 2nd offense
Meeting with a dean in the Division of Student Life. Meeting with dean of students.
AOD-focused Educational Project. Parental notification.
Parental notification. Withdrawal or suspension.
Disciplinary probation.  
Possible withdrawal or suspension.  

If you are over 21

Violations

  • Open container.
  • Drug paraphernalia associated with the dangerous consumption.
  • Dispensing alcohol.
  • Intoxication.
  • Possession/use of illegal drugs or probable cause to believe there was use.
1st offense 2nd offense 3rd offense
Meeting with Residential Life. Meeting with Residential Life or a dean in the Division of Student Life. Meeting with a dean in the Division of Student Life.
AOD-focused Educational Project. AOD-focused Educational Project. Parental notification.
Disciplinary probation. Disciplinary probation.
Possible parental notification. Possible housing probation and suspension.
Possible withdrawal.

Violations

  • Selling/distributing illegal drugs.
1st offense 2nd offense
Meeting with a dean in the Division of Student Life. Meeting with dean of students.
AOD-focused Educational Project. Parental notification.
Parental notification. Withdrawal or suspension.
Disciplinary probation.
Possible withdrawal or suspension.

Alcohol and Drug Policy Definitions

Possession: The evidence that alcohol consumption has occurred (e.g., empty beer bottles) or drug consumption has occurred (e.g., bong, pipe, etc.).

Intoxication: The College considers intoxication requiring medical assistance or a medical transport to the hospital a health emergency. If medical assistance is deemed necessary, the College expects the student to accept transportation to the hospital for medical attention.  

Students who refuse transport will be placed into protective custody as outlined by state law. There may be instances in which the parental/emergency contact will be notified in response to intoxication. Please refer to the College’s Policy on Parent Notification noted earlier in this document.

In addition, the College prohibits students from attending class under the influence of alcohol or drugs and identifies such behavior as unsafe.

Students suspected of being under the influence of substances will be asked to leave the classroom and such an incident would warrant staff/faculty to document the behavior and actions taken. As a follow-up students may be referred to Counseling Service.

Violations regarding alcohol or drugs will be counted as a second offense when a first offense of either policy is already on the record.

The record of each offense remains on file for seven (7) years.

Related Policies

Alcohol and Drug-free Environment

In compliance with the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989, Mount Holyoke College has developed this policy in an effort to provide a healthy environment by preventing the use of drugs or the harmful use of alcohol within the College community and in response to the federal drug-free legislation. The Drug-Free Schools and Campus Act, which became law in December 1989, mandates that institutions of higher education adopt and implement a program designed to prevent the unlawful possession, use, dispensation or distribution of drugs and alcohol by students and employees and to provide certification to the Department of Education that such a program is in place.

Mount Holyoke College prohibits the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession or use of controlled substances and alcohol by any member of the faculty, staff or student body on College property or at any College-sponsored function, whether on or off campus, and requires the cooperation of the entire campus community in its pursuit to maintain a drug-free environment in all aspects of campus life. At certain sanctioned College functions, alcoholic beverages may be allowed but will be monitored.

Any employee or student who violates this prohibition, or who does not cooperate with the College in its attempts to maintain a drug-free environment, will face disciplinary action up to and including termination, expulsion or dismissal from the College and may be required, as a condition of continuing the faculty/staff/student relationship with the College, to enroll at their own expense in a substance abuse counseling and treatment program.

In addition, the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires that any employee (including student employees) working at Mount Holyoke College who is convicted under a criminal drug statute for conduct in the workplace must report this conviction to the College no later than five days after the conviction. Workplace in this instance is defined as a site for the performance of work done in connection with a particular federal grant or contract. Once the College is informed of such a conviction, the College is required by law to notify the federal contractor or grantor within 10 days after an employee’s conviction or within 10 days after it has actual knowledge of such conviction, whichever is earlier. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with resources available in the area for substance abuse, counseling and treatment.

The Higher Education Amendments

On October 7, 1998, the Higher Education Amendments of 1998 became effective, making specific amendments to the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 (20 U.S. C. 10920 and the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)(20 U.S. C. 1232g). The following outlines the significant changes to these acts that influence the alcohol and other drug policies at Mount Holyoke College and all other private and public schools that receive federal funds.

The Amendments to the Campus Security Act expanded the scope of the reporting requirement. It must not only report arrests but also record the number of people referred for campus disciplinary action for liquor law violations, drug-related violations, and weapons possession.

FERPA generally provides that information about students be protected from disclosure. Generally, the student’s educational record is protected from disclosure. The Higher Education Act of 1998 added a provision that indicates that FERPA cannot prevent a school from releasing information to a parent or legal guardian regarding the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance by a student, if the student is under the age of 21 and the institution determines that the student has committed a disciplinary violation with respect to such use or possession.

Medical and Recreational Use of Cannabis Policy

Massachusetts has instituted legislation under Massachusetts Act (Chapter 369) “An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana” which allows for the controlled use of medical cannabis in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. Thus, citizens of the commonwealth may legally obtain a medical cannabis registration card from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Mount Holyoke College students, staff and faculty who legally possess a “medical marijuana registration card” are not permitted to possess and/or use any form of cannabis on Mount Holyoke College property or at College-sponsored events.

In addition, the commonwealth of Massachusetts through 935 CMR 500.00 has legalized the sale of cannabis for recreational purposes to individuals at least 21 years old. Although Massachusetts law permits the use of medical and recreational cannabis, Federal laws outlined by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) have classified cannabis as a controlled substance, which prohibits the use, possession and/or cultivation of cannabis. Therefore the use, possession, cultivation or sale of cannabis in any form violates federal law. Mount Holyoke must comply with the Drug-Free Communities and Schools Act (DFSCA) (20 U.S.C.1011i; 34 C.F.R part 86) as well as the Drug-Free Workplace Act, which requires a drug-free campus environment. Institutions of higher education such as Mount Holyoke must comply with the Drug-Free Communities and Schools Act regulations or risk losing federal funding such as financial aid. Any student, staff or faculty member who violates Mount Holyoke College policy prohibiting the use and/or possession of illicit drugs (including medical cannabis) on campus may be subject to disciplinary action.

Medical Amnesty Policy

Because the health and safety of students are of primary importance, students are encouraged to take steps to ensure their health and safety, as well as their peers’. For students who choose to consume alcohol, they are expected to use in moderation to avoid compromising personal safety. The College acknowledges that there may be times when students may face medical emergencies involving alcohol and drug use. Therefore, immediate action should be taken when a person’s health and safety are threatened or appear to be in jeopardy. 

Alcohol poisoning can occur with the consumption of alcohol and symptoms can include unconsciousness or unresponsiveness, disorientation or confusion, slow breathing, vomiting, and cool or pale skin. If the affected student is on campus, Public Safety & Service and/or the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) must be contacted (x2304; 413-538-2304) to evaluate the student’s need for medical assistance. If medical assistance is deemed necessary, the College expects the student to accept transportation to the hospital for medical attention. 

In order to support students in this effort and decrease the risk that a student will hesitate to seek help in an alcohol- or drug-related emergency, the College has developed a Medical Amnesty Policy to remove concerns about disciplinary action. Students who actively seek help or medical assistance for themselves or when concerned about someone else’s use of alcohol and other drugs will not be subject to disciplinary sanctions.

 The College provides amnesty of the disciplinary process for students who:

  • Request medical assistance for themselves.
  • Request medical assistance for another person.
  • The student for whom medical assistance was requested.

When responding to such alcohol and drug violations, the College will consider the student’s decision to request medical assistance, and in most cases, view the act of seeking medical assistance as good judgment. Thus if it is determined that the Medical Amnesty Policy applies, the students involved will not be subject to violation of the policy, nor will they receive a violation on their disciplinary record. In follow-up with the student granted medical amnesty, the student will meet with the Be Well director to have an opportunity to review the incident, ask questions and/or engage in further education to support future good judgment. 

This provision does not protect repeated, flagrant or serious violations, or violations that caused harm to another person or property. Abuse of the Medical Amnesty Policy may result in disciplinary action by the College. This provision does not preclude or prevent action by Public Safety & Service or other outside legal authorities.

Additional Information on Alcohol and Drug Use

Serving Alcohol

No person shall receive a license or permit who is under 21 years of age. Whoever makes a sale or delivery of any alcoholic beverage or alcohol to any person under 21 years of age, either for his own use or for the use of his parent or any other person, or whoever, being a patron of an establishment licensed under section 12 or 15, delivers or procures to be delivered in any public room or area of such establishment if licensed under section 12, 15, 19B, 19C or 19D or any area of such establishment if licensed under said section 15, 19B, 19C or 19D any such beverages or alcohol to or for use by a person who he knows or has reason to believe is under 21 years of age or whoever procures any such beverage or alcohol for a person under 21 years of age in any establishment licensed under section 12 or procures any such beverage or alcohol for a person under 21 years of age who is not his child, ward or spouse in any establishment licensed under said section 15, 19B, 19C or 19D or whoever furnishes any such beverage or alcohol for a person under 21 years of age shall be punished by a fine of not more than $2,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year or both.

For the purpose of this section, the word “furnish” shall mean to knowingly or intentionally supply, give, or provide to or allow a person under 21 years of age except for the children and grandchildren of the person being charged to possess alcoholic beverages on premises or property owned or controlled by the person charged. (See M.G.L., Ch. 138, ¶34.)

Serving Alcohol to Intoxicated Persons 

Any person licensed to serve alcohol may not serve intoxicated persons. To do so may result in civil liability for injuries caused by the intoxicated person. (See M.G.L., Ch. 138, ¶69.)

Alcohol and/or Drugs and Driving

Transporting alcohol

It is unlawful for a person under 21 years of age to knowingly drive a car with alcohol in it or carry alcohol on their person unless accompanied by a parent.

Conviction is punishable by mandatory suspension of driver’s license for 90 days. Punishment also includes a fine of not more than $50 for the first offense and not more than $150 for a second or subsequent offense.

Open Container in a Motor Vehicle

It is unlawful for a person to possess an open container of alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of any motor vehicle. The passenger area is defined as the area designed to seat the driver and passengers while the motor vehicle is in operation and any area that is readily available to the driver or a passenger while in a seated position, including, but not limited to, the glove compartment. Violation of this section is punishable by a fine of not less than $100 or more than $500. (See M.G.L., Ch. 90, ¶ 24I)

Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence 

If arrested, the driver will be detained by the police and read their rights. The vehicle will be towed and the driver taken in a police cruiser to the police station for a breathalyzer test. Refusal to take this test will result in automatic suspension of license for 120 days.

  • If the breathalyzer test registers over .05 but below .08 the driver will be held, but there will be no presumption of driving under the influence.
  • If the test registers .08 or over, the driver will be held, and there will be a presumption of driving under the influence. The driver will be kept in the police lockup until bailed out. Upon arraignment, the license of the defendant having a breathalyzer of .08 or above is immediately suspended for 90 days.

For persons under 21 years of age, there will be a presumption of driving under the influence if the test registers over .02. The driver will be kept in the police lockup until bailed out. Upon arraignment, the license of the defendant will immediately be suspended for 180 days. Drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 who refuse or fail a breathalyzer test must complete a Youth Alcohol Program (Y.A.P.) and suffer a 180-day license suspension. In addition, the law mandates a fine dedicated to the Trust Fund for Head Injury Treatment Services; allows out-of-state convictions to be used to calculate repeat offenses; and allows a court to look back ten years to calculate repeat offenses. For more information regarding offenses, including first–fifth offense conviction information, see M.G.L., Ch. 90, paragraph 24.

Homicide by Motor Vehicle

Anyone who operates a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and who operates that vehicle recklessly or negligently so as to endanger and who, by any such operation, causes death shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than two and one-half or more than 15 years and a fine of not more than $5,000. Punishment also includes suspension of license for 15 years with first offense and lifetime suspension with subsequent offense.

Drug Enforcement Laws

An Act Providing for Drug-Free Schools

Effective July 11, 1989, anyone convicted of dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of an elementary, vocational, or secondary school faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence. It will not matter whether the dealer knew they were near a school, whether it is a public or private school, or whether the school is in session. The law pertains to drug distributors, manufacturers, or persons possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute it. A fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed but not in lieu of the two-year term of imprisonment.

An Act Providing for Suspension of a License to Operate a Motor Vehicle upon Conviction of Violation of the Controlled Substance Act 

This law provides that a conviction of any drug offense shall result in the loss of the right to drive for a period of up to five years. A minor who does not yet have a driver’s license at the time of their conviction can lose the right to obtain a license until reaching age 21.

An Act Further Regulating the Misuse of Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards                            

This law makes a broad spectrum of activities related to false identification cards or licenses punishable by a fine or imprisonment. These activities include, but are not limited to, making, using, or carrying a false identification card or license; using the cards or license of another; and furnishing false information in obtaining a card or license. In addition, a conviction on any of these charges will result in an automatic one-year suspension of the license to drive.