Alcohol & Other Drugs

Brown's alcohol policies and programs are intended to further the educational mission of the University.  The University is committed to fostering an environment that promotes the acquisition of knowledge and nurtures the growth of the individual; encourages and sustains an academic environment that respects individual freedom; and promotes the health, safety, and welfare of all members of its community. 

In keeping with these principles and with federal, state, and local laws, the University‘s policies and programs related to alcohol use emphasize individual and shared responsibility, healthy and informed decision-making, the maintenance of a caring environment, and promotion of genuine dialogue.  Brown's approach to alcohol is based in a harm-reduction model, combining education, environmental approaches, and policy to limit the use of and risks associated with use of alcohol and other drugs.

In part because drunken behavior may be conspicuous, students overestimate the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption of those around them. One in five Brown undergraduates doesn't drink at all. The majority of student behavior is not disruptive. We all have a role in supporting our community and in calling out disruptive behavior when it occurs and causes problems for our community.


Brown's educational approaches to alcohol are based in a harm-reduction approach, helping students to recognize that:

  • There are risks involved with any drug use, including alcohol;
  • Many students on campus do not drink alcohol or use other drugs;
  • Actual student drinking or other drug use is lower than many students perceive it to be;
  • Alcohol or other drug use is not simply personal behavior, but also affects the community;
  • Individuals can make safer choices with more accurate information;
  • Help is available, and it is important to take care of one another. See Resources and Support, below.

Resources and Support

Resources and support for issues of alcohol and other drugs are offered through a number of offices on campus.

Brown Emergency Medical Services (EMS)    (401) 863-4111
Emergency medical response is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus. We consistently encourage students to call EMS if a friend is intoxicated. In "Calling EMS", Health Promotion provides additional information about making the decision to call and what happens when EMS is called.

Dean for Issues of Chemical Dependency    (401) 863-2536
The Dean for Issues of Chemical Dependency provides comprehensive academic and social support in non-clinical settings for Brown students affected by alcohol or drug abuse. Housed in the Office of the Dean of the College, the dean is also a resource for all members of the campus community who are concerned about their use of drugs and alcohol, who suspect that someone they know has a problem, or who are negatively affected by others' substance abuse

Early Sobriety Group
A group for Brown students in recovery from chemical dependency. The group's ultimate objective is to help students develop the social support necessary for sustained recovery so that they may continue their studies at and ultimately graduate from Brown. Additional information is available on the page of the Dean for Issues of Chemical Dependency.

Health Promotion (401) 863-2794   
Free, confidential appointments are available to students concerned about their own use of alcohol or other drugs, or concerned about a friend’s use. With a focus on harm reduction, not abstinence, Health Promotion will work with a student on the changes they choose to make. Located on the third floor of Health Services. The Health Promotion website includes a section about Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs.

Health Services    (401) 863-3953 
Located at the corner of Brown and Charlesfield streets, Health Servicesprovides confidential health care for enrolled Brown students. 

Lunch Bunch 
Lunch Bunch is a monthly gathering of Brown faculty, staff, and students affected by chemical dependency that provides an opportunity to share their experiences and to support one another. Additional information is available on the page of the Dean for Issues of Chemical Dependency.

Information about local meetings of AA, AlAnon, Marijuana Anonymous (MA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and other groups is offered on the websites of the Dean for Issues of Chemical Dependency and the Office of Health Promotion.

Counseling and Psychological Services    (401) 863-3476
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides assessment, brief psychotherapy, and crisis intervention to all enrolled Brown students. Confidential appointments are available to discuss alcohol or drug concerns about self or family. Located on the fifth floor of J. Walter Wilson.

Residential Staff, Office of Residential Life (401) 863-3500
For concerns in the residence halls, typically, students should start with their residential peer leaders (i.e., CA, RC, MPC, WPC) for information, problem solving assistance, and referral.  Each area of campus also has a Community Director (CD) with whom students may meet for assistance; the CD is a professional staff member who lives in the residence halls and has a daytime office in Residential Life (Grad Center E).

Student Health Council, Alpert Medical School 
Alpert Medical School and the Brown University Medical Student Senate have established a Student Health Council to provide compassionate assistance to impaired students; protect the rights of impaired students to receive treatment in strictest confidence; try to assure that recovered students are able to continue their medical education without stigma or penalty; and protect patients and others from the harm that impaired students may cause. The council consists of physician faculty and medical students.

Substance Free Housing 
Available in response to student request, special-interest substance free housing in select residence halls includes additional agreements by residents about their own and their guests' behavior, as well as programs which promote a substance-free environment. Undergraduate students interested in this living option should review Special Interest Housing information through the Office of Residential Life.


In becoming a part of Brown University, all members of Brown accept the responsibility to uphold the Principles of the Brown University Community. Students are expected to abide by the law and University policies, and to respect the academic and social community.  An overview of policies is provided below.  

State and City laws include the following:

  • Alcohol purchase or consumption by those under 21 years of age is illegal.
  • Purchasing alcohol for or providing alcohol to someone under 21 years of age is illegal.
  • Using false identification to purchase alcohol is punishable as a misdemeanor crime.
  • Open containers of alcohol are not allowed on public property (e.g., sidewalks, parks).
  • The legal limit for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in Rhode Island is .08% BAC for drivers 21 years and older. The law is less tolerant for drivers under 21 who can be charged with DWI for a BAC of .02% or higher. Penalties in Rhode Island differ by age of driver and BAC.

Most of the state laws regarding alcohol may be found in Title 3 of the Rhode Island General Laws.  The ordinances of the City of Providence may be found at

University policies include the following:

  • The University Alcohol & Other Drug Policy describes expectations of student conduct and prohibitions of items and behavior.  Anyone who provides alcohol bears a responsibility to see that no one is coerced, however subtly, to drink or to drink excessively. Activities and items that are not allowed include, but are not limited to, alcohol sales as fundraising, kegs, individual-serving sized glass bottles, "bring your own" events, activities or paraphernalia that encourage rapid consumption of alcohol, and business sponsorship or promotion of alcohol. 
  • The University's policy of "medical amnesty" focuses on health and safety as the primary concerns in cases of intoxication or alcohol poisoning.  Medical treatment for intoxication does not result in disciplinary action against the student (or a person who called for assistance), but will result in required follow-up with an educator; however other violations while intoxicated (e.g., fighting, vandalism) may engender disciplinary action. Repeat incidents will engender increased response. Additional information about when to call for help, and what happens when a student is "EMS'd" is available from the office of Health Promotion.
  • A number of policies regulate student events. For example:  student-sponsored events must be registered and pre-approved by Student Activities, verification of age and alcohol-free beverages and food are required if alcohol will be served, events are prohibited at certain times of the year including but not restricted to Reading Period and Exams. Students or student organizations wishing to plan events should consult with the Student Activities Office.