Policies on Alcohol & Illegal Substances

The legal drinking age in Massachusetts is 21 years. This means that you may legally consume, possess, transport, or procure alcoholic beverages only if you are 21 years of age or older.

Anyone under 21 years of age who knowingly makes false statements of their age in order to purchase or in any way procure alcoholic beverages is subject to a fine of $300 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts .

Anyone 21 years of age or older who procures alcoholic beverages for, or serves or sells alcoholic beverages to, anyone under 21 years of age, is subject to a fine of $2,000, or six months imprisonment. Also, be advised that in the City of Boston it is illegal for anyone to consume alcoholic beverages in public (sidewalks, streets, parks, and so on).

Boston University’s Alcohol Policy will be in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at all times. Moreover, the University’s standards of personal conduct substantially exceed the minimum expectations of civil law and custom. Students found in violation of Massachusetts law will also be subject to University disciplinary action. Students found in violation of the University’s Alcohol Policy or engaging in misconduct related to the abuse of alcohol, whether on or off campus, will be subject to disciplinary action under the Code of Student Responsibilities.

The University’s Alcohol Policy specifies:

Students who are 21 years of age or older and possess a Massachusetts driver’s license and/or a government-issued identification are currently extended the privilege to possess and consume alcoholic beverages in University residences. Such privileges may be revoked.

  1. Students who are 21 years of age or older and possess a Massachusetts driver’s license are currently extended the privilege to possess and consume alcoholic beverages in University residences. Such privileges may be revoked.
  2. Students who are under 21 years of age may not possess or consume alcoholic beverages in the residences.
  3. Quantities of alcoholic beverages permitted to be brought into or stored in any residence facility by any resident 21 years of age or older are limited to seventy-two ounces of beer (for example, a six-pack), and one liter of other alcoholic beverage; any substantial quantity of alcoholic beverages (such as beer balls or kegs; cases of beer, wine, or other alcohol) may not be delivered to or brought into residences or other University facilities. Students who bring substantial quantities of alcoholic beverages into the residences will be subject to disciplinary action; this may include, but is not limited to, expulsion from the residences.
  4. No alcoholic beverages may be served or sold at Boston University functions that are attended primarily by undergraduate students. Applications for exceptions will be considered by the Dean of Students for certain events (for example, a senior class function).
  5. Alcoholic beverages may not be consumed in any public areas of the University.
  6. Guests of residents, regardless of age, may not bring alcoholic beverages into University residences.
  7. The possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages should not be part of an activity that is in violation of a University policy, as stated in the Code of Student Responsibilities and the Residence License Agreement, and such beverages are not to be consumed in any restricted area, such as hallways, lobbies, and common areas.
  8. The University reserves the right to conduct inspections in appropriate circumstances in order to enforce its policies and confiscate any beverages on University property in violation of this policy.

Proper identification must be presented to University personnel upon request.

University Statement on Illegal Drugs and Alcohol

This statement is provided to students, faculty, and staff as part of Boston University’s compliance with the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989. Faculty, staff, and students who receive funding and other support such as grants, contracts, and certain financial assistance from the federal government may be subject to additional restrictions imposed upon them by the Drug-Free Workplace Act.


The general policies of Boston University provide that the University campus and University activities are not a sanctuary from federal, state, and local laws. The policies of the University prohibit the unlawful use, possession, sale, distribution, or manufacture of controlled substances or alcohol on University property or as part of University activities.

Boston University recognizes that alcoholism, drug addiction, and substance abuse may represent illnesses or conditions that require professional counseling, assistance, or treatment. Faculty, students, and staff with problems related to or stemming from alcohol and substance abuse or dependency are encouraged to utilize the services provided through the University or other sources of assistance. However, neither addiction nor abuse excuses any member of the University community for violating the rights of others, or for neglecting or performing inadequately academic or job-related responsibilities.

Standards of Conduct

The unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs or alcohol by any student or employee on University property or as part of or in connection with any University activity is prohibited.

Disciplinary Sanctions

The University will impose disciplinary sanctions on students and employees who violate University standards of conduct. In addition, students or employees who violate public law may be subject to criminal prosecution. Conviction may result in fines, imprisonment, and revocation or loss of eligibility to receive federal funding (such as grants and financial assistance) and other privileges. University-imposed discipline may include sanctions up to and including expulsion of a student or termination of employment, in addition to referral for criminal prosecution. Disciplinary sanctions may include participation in a treatment, counseling, or other approved rehabilitation program.

State and Federal Laws and Sanctions Concerning Drugs and Alcohol

In addition to disciplinary sanctions imposed by the University, all students, faculty, and staff should be aware that federal, state, and some local laws treat illegal use, possession, sale, distribution, or manufacture of drugs or alcohol as serious crimes. Conviction can lead to imprisonment, fines, and assigned community service. Courts do not lift prison sentences in order to allow convicted persons to attend college or continue their jobs. Felony and certain other convictions can prevent you from entering many fields of employment or professions and may have to be listed on applications for employment or admission to graduate or professional schools.

Many cities and towns in Massachusetts, including Boston, have local ordinances and regulations which prohibit public consumption of alcoholic beverages on private property without the owner’s consent. The Metropolitan District Commission also prohibits public consumption of alcohol in its parks. Similar laws and regulations apply in most other states and in many localities.

Massachusetts laws punish sale or delivery of alcoholic beverage to persons under twenty-one with a fine of up to $2,000 and six months imprisonment, or both. Misrepresenting one’s age or falsifying an identification to obtain alcoholic beverages is punishable by a fine of $300. First conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol has a penalty of a $500– $5,000 fine, a one-year revocation of driver’s license, up to two and a half years in prison, and mandatory alcohol rehabilitation.

Massachusetts has criminal penalties for use of controlled substances, or drugs, with penalties varying with the type of drug. In general, use of narcotic and addictive drugs, and drugs with high potential for abuse have heavier penalties.

Possession of controlled drugs is illegal without valid authorization. While penalties for possession are generally not as great as for the manufacture and distribution of drugs, possession of a relatively large quantity may be considered distribution. Under both state and federal laws, penalties for possession, manufacture, and distribution are much greater for second and subsequent convictions. Many laws dictate mandatory prison terms and the full minimum term must be served.

Massachusetts makes it illegal to be in a place where heroin is kept and to be “in the company” of a person known to possess heroin. Anyone in the presence of heroin at a private party or in a dormitory suite risks a serious drug conviction. Sale and possession of “drug paraphernalia” is illegal in Massachusetts. Under federal laws and some state laws, participation in drug-related criminal activity can result in seizure or forfeiture of personal property and other assets utilized in conjunction with or stemming from the proceeds of the illegal activity. In addition, conviction of a drug-related offense may entail civil fines and denial or revocation of certain licenses and benefits.

Persons convicted of drug possession under state or federal laws are ineligible for federal student grants and loans or for participation in federally sponsored research grants or contracts for up to one year after the first conviction, and up to five years after the second; the penalty for distributing drugs is loss of benefits for five years after the first conviction, for ten years after the second, permanently after the third.*

Under federal law, distribution of drugs to a person under age twenty-one is punishable by twice the normal penalty, i.e., a mandatory one-year prison term; a third conviction is punishable by mandatory life imprisonment. These penalties apply to distribution of drugs in or within 1,000 feet of a college or school. Federal law sets greatly heightened prison sentences for manufacture and distribution of drugs if death or serious injury results from use of the substance.

In accordance with the requirements of the Drug-Free Workplace Act, as a condition of employment, any employee who is engaged in the performance of work under a federal grant or contract must notify the University if he or she is convicted of violating any criminal drug statute for activities done in the workplace not later than five days after conviction; students who receive Pell and certain other federal grants are subject to similar conditions and must report any conviction of a drug-related offense to the U.S. Department of Education within five days of the conviction if the offense occurred during the period covered by the grant.

Medical Emergencies Caused by Drugs and Alcohol and Judicial Sanctioning

The illegal use or abuse of alcohol or drugs can be hazardous to students’ health and safety as well as an impediment to academic and personal success. The University is, above all else, concerned for the safety and well-being of all members of our community; therefore, the University addresses all reported violations of the University’s alcohol and drug policies, including notifying the parents of undergraduate students of alcohol and drug-related incidents, if necessary.

At Boston University, student health and safety are paramount. The University recognizes that alcohol or drug consumption may create medical or safety emergencies in which the potential for University disciplinary action may deter students from seeking assistance for themselves or others. In these situations, we strongly encourage students to act with their own and others’ health and safety as the primary concern.

When the University learns of a student’s illegal possession or use of alcohol or drugs as a result of that student’s seeking medical assistance for themselves, or another person, that student ordinarily will not be subject to University disciplinary sanctions for possession or use of that substance so long as the student completes all education and counseling programs recommended by the University. We are committed to the use of education and treatment approaches because, in our experience, education and/or treatment for individuals who receive emergency medical attention may reduce the likelihood of future occurrences.

When there is a question of sexual abuse or assault in a situation involving alcohol or drugs, the student who was sexually abused or assaulted is not subject to discipline under the University’s alcohol and drug policies.

Disciplinary Sanctions

As further clarification of our approach to dealing with illegal use or possession of alcohol, it will be useful for you to understand the typical sanctions in cases where students do not seek medical assistance. The disciplinary sanctions typically imposed for underage alcohol possession and use violations, together with the education and counseling programs that are usually required are as follows:

Violations in University Residence Halls

Following are the sanctions and education and counseling programs typically imposed for underage alcohol possession and use violations that take place in University residence halls. More serious sanctions may be imposed in appropriate circumstances, including when the quantity of alcohol is excessive (e.g., exceeds one case of beer or one liter of liquor) and when an individual provides alcohol to persons who are under 21. If other unacceptable behavior—such as fighting, sexual assault, or property damage—occurs in conjunction with the alcohol violation, additional sanctions may be imposed for that behavior. Second violations are uncommon and third violations are rare.


First Incident
  • Disciplinary Sanction: Letter of reprimand and warning and $25 fine
  • Education/Counseling: alcohol education
Second Incident
  • Disciplinary Sanction: Residence Probation
  • Education/Counseling: Alcohol education class

Sanctions for a third violation may include, among other things, separation from University housing.

The University permits students who are over 21 to possess and consume alcohol within the residence halls. However, when an excessive quantity of alcohol is present, members of the residence hall staff contact the Boston University Police Department (BUPD). BUPD determines whether to take action against an individual, including whether to refer the matter to local authorities. (Under Massachusetts law, a minor in possession of alcohol may be arrested and fined and their driver’s license may be suspended. An individual who buys alcohol for a minor may be fined up to $2,000 and sentenced to up to six months in jail.)

Violations Not in University Residence Halls

Following are the sanctions and education and counseling programs typically imposed for underage alcohol possession and use violations that do not take place in University residence halls. If other unacceptable behavior – such as fighting, sexual assault, or property damage – occurs in conjunction with the alcohol violation, additional sanctions may be imposed for that behavior. Second violations are uncommon and third violations are rare. Sanctions for a third violation will include, among other things, suspension from the University.

First Incident
  • Disciplinary Sanction: University Probation and $100 fine
  • Education/Counseling: alcohol education
Second Incident
  • Disciplinary Sanction: University Deferred suspension
  • Education/Counseling: Alcohol education class