By Cole Coyer
Stanford University recently announced a ban on hard liquor from undergraduate parties on campus in effort to combat binge drinking among students. The school defines hard liquor as anything above 40 proof (20 percent alcohol). Under this ban, students above the age of 21 are still allowed to have bottles under 750 milliliters in their dorms. Grad student parties registered with the university are excluded from the rule change as long as all of the attendees are grad students. The policy change comes shortly after the controversial Brock Turner case in which Turner, a former Stanford swimmer, was convicted on three felony charges of sexual assault and sentenced to six months in prison. Turner made a statement that his judgement was impaired due to Stanford’s “party culture.” University officials claim that the decision to make the policy change was not affected by the wide-spread media attention garnered by Turner’s case.
It troubles me to see a university as prestigious as Stanford make such a rash decision without acknowledging the serious, detrimental effects the policy change can and will have on the students. Minimal research has been done on the effectiveness of hard liquor bans, but schools such as the University of Virginia and Dartmouth College implemented similar bans after several incidents of sexual assault on their own campuses. It is clear that there is a correlation between cases of sexual assault and these bans, but Stanford is simply denying it. It is embarrassing that a university filled with such bright students and staff is utilizing a quick-fix for such a serious problem.
In 2001, a report by Harvard University showed that schools with alcohol bans have the same rate of extreme consumption and alcohol-related problems as those without bans. Stanford cannot be oblivious to the alternatives students will take.
This ban will have no effect on what students will do behind closed doors. The message that the university is serious about quelling rapid consumption of hard liquor may be received by some, but for others, it will just lead to harder pre-gaming, as the students will not be able to bring their bottles to the party. Shots of hard liquor were never allowed at Stanford parties, only mixed drinks. If students are going to be confined to their dorms, they will most likely take shots so they can quickly get to the party and socialize. It is not rocket science.
Although Stanford is trying to deny the relation between the Turner incident and the ban, the goal is still to diminish high-risk behavior. With that said, the ban is doing nothing to address the problem of sexual assault. Alcohol is undeniably a huge factor in sexual assault cases, but it is not solely to blame, nor should it be used as an excuse.
Turner pointed his finger at alcohol and the atmosphere of his school, and unfortunately, it seems like Stanford somewhat agrees with him. The school should be addressing the problem of sexual assault directly but instead is choosing to sanction alcohol. It is not logical.
I hope for the sake of the students and the university itself that Stanford does something about this new policy. I firmly believe that it is going to be counterproductive, and if it does not change, new methods of binge consumption will be ingrained into the culture of the school (the culture that Turner has already blamed for his incident). Limiting the size of liquor bottles will not stop kids from carrying vodka in water bottles. Excluding grad student-only parties from the rule will not put a force field around the events. No one expects students to stop drinking hard liquor completely. This policy, however, will do nothing to control consumption and blatantly ignores the sexual assault which led to the ban.
Stanford is clearly concerned about the safety and well-being of its students, but the school has taken the wrong approach in response to the Turner incident. The university should increase alcohol and sexual assault education for all students if it truly wants something to resonate. Stanford students already have a huge workload, and I assume most of them also know how to drink and not act as deplorable as Turner. Another reason to be reprimanded will only add to their stress, and the students should not have to suffer just because Stanford wants to show the media they are taking action (even if the action is hasty and ill-informed).
Cole Coyer, FCRH ’19, is an economics major from Port Washington, New York.