Stanford recently announced that they will be banning large containers of hard alcohol in all undergraduate residences starting this school year. I personally voted against this proposal when it was up to a room full of just 10 people!
Hi there! My name is Catherine Götze, and I am a rising junior at Stanford University, where I am rather involved with student life. I served on the Sophomore class cabinet last year, and I’m serving as one of the Junior class presidents this year. I was an Admit Weekend House Host my freshman year, and I’m going to be an RA in an all-frosh dorm this year. I bought the creepy little stuffed tree from the bookstore. Coach Shaw is my spirit father. John Hennessy and I are best friends*. I am, one might say, hard for Card.
To add to my ongoing list of campus involvements, this past school year I served as a student representative on the–inhale–Alcohol and Drug Subcommittee of the Mental Health and Well-Being Advisory Committee–exhale—a group that aims to advise the administration on issues of alcohol and drug use among the student population. The committee was small– I was one of only three undergraduate student representatives, in addition to one graduate student, four faculty/administration, and four staff, such as a doctor at the Stanford Hospital and a representative from the Department of Public Safety. (Numbers are estimates because people are hella flaky.) This committee was the one who recommended to Student Affairs to ban hard alcohol in all-frosh dorms.
JFYI #1: The hard alcohol ban was not a response to heat from the Brock Turner case
Thanks to unfortunate timing and a host of misleading news articles (Buzzfeed, The Guardian, LA Times, CNN, Newsweek, NPR…) many people seem to be under the impression that the hard alcohol policy was developed by the administration in response to the huge media spotlight thrust upon the university in June after the conviction of ex-Stanford Cardinal, Brock Turner. Moreover, many have assumed that this particular policy change is the university’s idea of how to best reduce the number of sexual assaults that take place on campus. (I don’t need to get into why such logic, if true, would be horrifically sympathetic to rapists and rape culture, do I?)
However, this assumption is flat-out untrue. A couple weeks into fall quarter, on October 12, 2015, the committee members received an email stating that the three main topics on which the committee would focus were, “Hard alcohol and its impact on student well-being, marijuana policy and campus impact, and prescription drug abuse.” Our committee was tasked with devising a recommendation for the Office of Student Affairs on how to tackle these issues eight months before Brock Turner brought Stanford to national headlines.
To aid in the decision-making process, we were presented with statistics regarding alcohol consumption and hospitalization data for the past–if my memory doesn’t fail me–four school years. The two outstanding statistics that we discussed were that the consumption of hard alcohol increases the risk of hospitalization (transports), and that transports happen more often for the freshman class than any other grade. Let me assure you, Dear Reader: the purpose of this subcommittee, and thus the hard alcohol ban, was to figure out how to reduce the number of transports taking place every year. It was not to figure out how changing the alcohol policy could reduce the number of sexual assaults on campus.
Here is a helpful timeline of events:
- October 12, 2015: The AOD subcommittee of the MHWB committee is informed that hard alcohol and its impact on student well-being will be a focus of the subcommittee throughout the year.
- January 20, 2016: The AOD subcommittee votes 8:2 to recommend “That hard alcohol, alcohol content greater than 20%, be prohibited in ‘all-freshmen’ dorms.” For more, see JFYI #2.
- March 30, 2016: Brock Turner is convicted of his crime.
- June 2, 2016: Brock Turner is sentenced to 6 months in jail.
- June 2, 2016, about 5 seconds later: Stanford makes national headlines as people denounce the measly 6 month sentence. Stanford is subsequently put under pressure for not cracking down hard enough on sexual assault.
- August 22, 2016: The office of Student Affairs announces that there will be a ban on containers of hard alcohol of over 750 mL.
- August 22, 2016, about 2 seconds later: Mass chaos. (And somebody creates hardforcard.com.)
The Brock Turner case made national headlines and added Stanford to the list of universities on the hotplate for sexual assault reform in early June 2016. This timeline shows that the university was looking into implementing a hard alcohol ban months before.
JFYI #2: About that 8:2 vote…
As previously mentioned, the AOD subcommittee was tasked with devising a recommendation for the Office of Student Affairs on how to reduce the number of ambulance transports due to dangerous drinking. On January 20, the members of the subcommittee who were present at the meeting took the following proposal to a vote:
The Alcohol and Other Drug Sub-Committee for Mental Health and Well Being recommends that hard alcohol, alcohol content greater than 20%, be prohibited in “all-freshmen” dorms.
NOTE the all-frosh qualification present in the proposal but missing from the ultimate decision. (Told you it was just a recommendation.)
There were two undergraduates present at the meeting, one of which was myself. Both students voted against the proposed recommendation, and were the only representatives serving on the committee to do so.
A loyal Cardinal and more loyal journalist,
*A previous version of this post mistakenly placed Brock Turner’s crime at January 2016, not the correct date of January 2015. (I’m actually wallowing in embarrassment rn so please have mercy.) Now that the correction has been made, it is more than ever up to you, Dear Reader, to decide for yourself how to interpret the information I have just shared. Do you believe that the university’s original intention with forming the Alcohol and Other Drug Subcommittee was to reduce the number of hospital transports related to dangerous drinking, or to reduce the number of sexual assaults on campus? Feel free to discuss in the comments below…
Hope this helps, Michael!
*I introduced myself to President Hennessy irl when we crossed paths about a month after he responded to my email one year ago saying he had read my blog. He smiled and politely pretended to remember who tf I was. Such a kind man, that John.