The responsible administrator for this section is the Office of Community Standards. The Office of Student Affairs has approval authority.

4.0. Introduction

Given the academic, and social pressures inherent in college life, many students seek relief from stress through use of alcohol or other drugs (AOD). The abuse of AOD undermines the academic mission of the College, and it is often illegal. The use of illegal drugs and alcohol abuse correlates with a host of problems on campus, such as lowered academic accomplishment, sexual violence and vandalism. The College considers the abuse of AOD a public health problem and works to reduce AOD abuse among students.

Amherst College provides education and counseling programs to improve students’ understanding of the risks associated with drug and alcohol abuse. Those students concerned about their own substance use or worried about a friend can seek assistance with complete confidentiality at Health Services, the Counseling Center, or Health Education. 

The College understands that students make their own choices about AOD. However, the College will not ignore violations of state or federal law or the Amherst College regulations elaborated in this policy. When a student violates the policy on AOD or the law, a member of the Office of Student Affairs meets with the student to discuss the student’s behavior, College policy, and expectations and to determine appropriate sanctions. The Office of Student Affairs may communicate with other College officials as appropriate regarding a student’s violation. 

Students are reminded that Massachusetts law prohibits the purchase or consumption of alcoholic beverages by those under the age of 21. The purchase, sale, or consumption of many drugs is also prohibited by law, and violation can result in prison sentence.

Any student under the influence of intoxicants or drugs is fully responsible for their acts. All provisions of the Student Code of Conduct, including the full range of possible sanctions, will be applicable in these cases. A plea of mitigating circumstances due to the consumption of alcohol or drugs will not be accepted in disciplinary hearings.

The following policy outlines AOD violations of Massachusetts law and Amherst College policy and summarizes the range of possible sanctions for such violations. The College generally interprets more than three violations of the policy on AOD as indication that the student is unwilling to abide by College regulations. Violations of the policy on AOD result in sanctions such as exclusion from participation in educational programs, fines and parental notification, and may include denial of campus residence or a Housing Selection consequence. In some instances, violations may result in suspension or referral to the Community Standards Review Board for adjudication. 

4.1. AOD Under Massachusetts Law 

4.1.1. A person must be at least 21 years of age to legally purchase alcoholic beverages in Massachusetts. 

4.1.2. Purchase of an alcoholic beverage by an underage person or any arrangement with another person to procure such drinks is a crime punishable by a mandatory $300 fine. 

4.1.3. Willful misrepresentation of one’s age or the age of another person in order to purchase or receive alcoholic beverages (i.e., the use of a fake ID) is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $300 or by imprisonment of up to three months or both. Amherst College Police Department is mandated to report violations of this law to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. 

4.1.4. Any person who purchases for or furnishes a drink to someone underage commits a crime punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 or by imprisonment of up to one year or both. 

4.1.5. No person may serve an alcoholic beverage to anyone who is obviously inebriated.

4.1.6. For operating a motor vehicle under the influence of AOD, the state of Massachusetts has set the legal limit for alcohol concentration in the blood at below .02 for anyone under 21 and .08 for anyone 21 and over. 

4.1.7. Federal, state, and local sanctions for unlawful possession or distribution of illicit drugs range from probation and forfeiture of property to fines and imprisonment. For example, the sanctions against an individual for distribution of, or possession with intent to distribute controlled substances can be from a minimum of 10 years of imprisonment to a maximum of life imprisonment, with fines up to $4 million. Sanctions can increase for repeat offenders or for offenses resulting in death or serious bodily harm and can be doubled for each of the following occurrences: distribution to persons under 21 years of age, distribution within 1,000 feet of a college or university or employing someone under 18 in the distribution. Attempt or conspiracy to commit a crime can be treated as severely as the intended offense. As of Sept. 1, 1989, conviction for violation of any state or federal drug law can lead to ineligibility for any federal benefit (including grants and loans). 

Note: Any person who violates state or federal law is liable for their own actions and may be subject to civil or criminal complaints. Amherst College does not intervene on an individual’s behalf with campus, local, or state law enforcement authorities.

4.2. AOD Under the Town of Amherst Bylaw

General Bylaws of the Town of Amherst are found at:

4.2.1. Keg Licensing Enforcement: A Town of Amherst bylaw requires a keg license, which can be obtained at the Amherst (Town) Police Department, for the possession of beer kegs anywhere in the town. There are substantial monetary penalties for violating this bylaw (Special Town Meeting – May 20, 1990).

4.2.2. Open Containers of Alcohol: No person shall consume any alcoholic beverage nor possess or transport any open can, bottle or other container containing any alcoholic beverage outdoors on any town street, sidewalk, way and public property including, but not limited to, parking lots, parks, school playgrounds, recreation areas or conservation areas (Special Town Meeting—February 26, 1986 – Art. 51).

4.3. AOD Under the Amherst College Student Code of Conduct

4.3.1. If the Dean of Students, the Director of Community Standards, or designee learns that a student has been convicted of driving while intoxicated at any time between first enrollment at Amherst and graduation, whether in the vicinity of campus or anywhere else, that student will be denied parking privileges, and thus the capacity to keep a car on campus, for the remainder of their stay at Amherst, in addition to other possible sanctions (see Section 14, Sanctions and Corrective Actions).

4.3.2. Kegs are prohibited from first-year residence halls. Kegs are permissible in other residence halls only upon the issuance of a keg license as described in Section 4.2.1, Keg Licensing Enforcement.

4.3.3. Hard Alcohol: Hard alcohol (30% ethanol or greater) in any volume may only be possessed, stored, or used in bedrooms assigned to persons who are 21 or more years of age. Consequently, hard alcohol is not permitted for possession, storage, or use in lounges, hallways, or other parts of residence halls or other buildings on campus except when the College has expressly authorized it. Examples of exceptions include College-organized tent parties and other College-sponsored events.

4.3.4. Possession of drug paraphernalia (pipes, bongs, hookahs, etc.) and alcohol paraphernalia associated with the dangerous consumption of alcohol (funnels, beer pong tables, etc.) is prohibited. 

4.3.5. All prohibited substances and paraphernalia will be confiscated and destroyed by campus authorities. 

4.3.6. Smoking cannabis, tobacco, e-cigarettes, or other related devices that create smoke or vapor in campus buildings is prohibited. 

4.3.7. It is the responsibility of individuals and student groups to ensure that legally possessed alcohol is not stored in an unsupervised manner in which someone underage may access it.

4.3.8. No College funds may be used to purchase alcohol or to support fundraisers to raise money to purchase alcohol. Funds may be used to pay for TIPS-certified student staff required for beverage service. 

4.3.9. Students are expected to follow all posted signs and instructions of the Amherst College Police Department or the Amherst College Athletics Department concerning the use of alcohol at athletic events.

4.3.10. Events with alcohol must follow College guidelines published by the Office of Student Affairs.


4.3.11. Any student group who plans to sponsor an event in public space at which alcohol is available must fill out and submit a party notification form. These forms are available at the Student Activities Office and the Office of Residential Life and must be returned there at least two weeks prior to the date of the event and before publicity begins. For registered parties, sponsoring student(s) or student group(s) are prohibited from hosting events for which funds are collected and used for personal profit. 

4.3.12. If registering a tent for an event on campus where alcohol will be served, the registrant must obtain liability insurance that includes liquor liability. For more information, visit the tent policy and registration form on the Environmental Health and Safety webpage (

4.3.13. No person is permitted to use alcohol or other drugs where there is increased safety risk, including but not limited to porches, balconies, stairwells, or roofs.

4.4. Medical Amnesty Statement

The health and wellbeing of our community is paramount to a vibrant collegiate experience. If a member of the community is experiencing a medical emergency or crisis, we expect others to call trained professionals for help, to stay with the person who needs help, and to cooperate with the responding officials. The College understands the hesitation to call for help if there is fear that the callers or the person who needs assistance might face consequences due to the circumstances of the emergency (e.g., underage drinking that resulted in someone falling and hitting their head, the overconsumption of cannabis edibles that results in a panic attack, or someone twisting their ankle while attending an event disallowed during times of increased social distancing). However, barring exceptional circumstances as determined by the Office of Community Standards or the Title IX Office (e.g., assaults, hazing, use of weapons, harassment, etc.), the College will apply amnesty to those who needed assistance and those who asked for that assistance.

Amnesty allows students involved in potential violations of the Student Code of Conduct to engage in an adaptable conflict resolution process without that potential violation impacting their student disciplinary record. The goal of an amnesty-based resolution is to ensure wellness, to understand the circumstances that caused the concern, and to find the appropriate educational opportunity to improve future success.
Amherst College also has a specific Alcohol and Other Drugs Medical Amnesty Statement, which is below.

Alcohol and Other Drugs Medical Amnesty Statement

Amherst College is concerned about the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs in our community. Alcohol abuse and illegal drug use affect the entire College community. The College’s primary concern with AOD use is the safety and well-being of our students. Students are expected to abide by Massachusetts law and College policies. For students who choose to consume alcohol, the College expects that they do so in moderation to avoid compromising personal safety. 

Amherst acknowledges there may be times when students may face medical emergencies involving AOD use. In these situations, the College expects students to request emergency medical assistance for oneself or someone who may be suffering from a serious medical condition, including alcohol poisoning. 

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include: unconsciousness or unresponsiveness, disorientation or confusion, slow breathing, vomiting or choking and cold or pale skin. If the affected student is on campus, contact the Amherst College Police Department (ACPD) at (413) 542-2111. ACPD will respond and evaluate the student. Where appropriate, the Amherst College Emergency Medical Services (ACEMS), an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), or a First Responder (FR) will accompany ACPD.  If medical assistance is deemed necessary, the College expects the student to accept transportation to the hospital for medical attention. 

Because the safety and welfare of students is the College’s priority, the College has instituted a medical amnesty policy. This policy is applicable to the following parties:1) student requesting medical assistance for oneself; 2) student requesting medical assistance for another person; and 3) student for whom medical assistance was provided. 

When responding to such AOD 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, therefore not deserving of the typical range of AOD sanctions. Thus, if it is determined that the medical amnesty policy applies to a situation, the students involved will not be subject to a violation of the AOD policy. Referral for AOD education still applies, and, in some instances, parental notification.

This policy does not protect students who repeatedly violate College policies. Once a student receives medical amnesty, future amnesty is at the discretion of the Office of Student Affairs. The Dean of Students, Director of Community Standards, or designee also have discretion to determine that this policy does not apply in more serious situations, including criminal possession of drugs, property damage, violence, etc.