The university’s students can still drink beer and wine at such events, but will no longer be permitted to have hard alcohol that has more than 20% alcohol by volume or 40 proof. The new policy also limits the size of the bottles of hard liquor they’re allowed to keep in their dorms or common areas to under 750 milliliters.
“Our focus is on the high risk of the rapid consumption of hard alcohol,” said Ralph Castro, director of the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education, in a Stanford news release. “Our intention is not a total prohibition of a substance, but rather a targeted approach that limits high-risk behavior.”
The new alcohol policy comes two months after the sentencing of Brock Turner, a former Stanford swimmer who was convicted on a charge of intent to commit rape. The case gained national attention after the victim issued a powerful statement. The judge’s subsequent decision to give Turner a six-month jail sentence for sexually assaulting the unconscious woman also caused a national uproar.
Both the victim and Turner had been drinking the night of January 18, 2015, in which the female victim was later found in a field near the Kappa Alpha fraternity house, located on the southern end of campus.
Law enforcement officers found the victim on the ground, in a fetal position, behind a garbage dumpster. Her dress was pulled up to her waist and her underwear was on the ground.
Turner had said he came from a small town Ohio who got introduced to hard partying and drinking at Stanford. But evidence showed that he was a drinker who partied regularly since high school, including the use of marijuana and other drugs.
But some say the policy is misguided.
Michele Dauber, Stanford University Law professor and friend of the rape victim, tweeted that the university’s alcohol policy change was in effect agreeing that “‘alcohol’ and ‘party culture’ are to blame” for Turner’s conduct.
“Retweet if you’ve drank hard liquor and didn’t rape anyone,” one Twitter user wrote.
A Stanford spokeswoman told the San Francisco Chronicle that the policy update was not related to the Turner case and attributed it to general concerns about alcohol.
Colleges grapple with binge drinking
In March, Stanford President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy had emailed students about alcohol misuse.
“Alcohol, and particularly hard alcohol, is implicated in a variety of problems that continue to be present in the Stanford community. These include alcohol poisoning, sexual assault and relationship violence, organizational conduct problems, and academic problems.
We need new solutions — solutions that reduce risk for students, that reduce the pressure on students to drink, and that meaningfully change our culture around alcohol.”
Predictably, Stanford students were not fans of a liquor prohibition. In a campus referendum, students voted 91% against a hard alcohol ban on campus, according to its student newspaper.
Graduate student dorms and organizations are exempt from the liquor restrictions, as long as no undergraduates are members or residents. Shots of hard alcohol are not permitted at any parties.
Stanford is not the only college grappling with binge drinking and alcohol issues.
Drinking is seen as a ritual of the college experience. About 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries including car crashes every year, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The NIH also cited about 97,000 college students getting sexually assaulted or raped in cases related to alcohol.