On October 7th, one female Stanford freshman celebrated her 19th birthday at her all-frosh residence in Wilbur Hall. Though she calls herself a "lightweight" and had a Poli-Sci class the next day, she proceeded to take three successive shots of Raspberry Bacardi in addition to finishing off a couple of beers.
"It was my birthday and I felt like I should celebrate," she said the next day.
"Once in a while [alcohol binging]
is okay, but not every night."Though the birthday girl's stint did not leave her hospitalized, this incident reflects a trend of binge drinking prevalent
among college freshmen. In the 2004-2005 school year so far, there have already been five deaths of American college freshmen due to alcohol poisoning. While there has not been a similar fatality of a Stanford student since the mid 1980s, during the week of September 27th to October 3rd alone, there were five reported hospitalizations
of Stanford students, two of which were of freshmen.
Stanford Chief of Police Laura Wilson
believes that freshman are more likely to get alcohol poisoning than upper classmen because of the newfound
freedom from parental control and a desire for experimentation combined
with being in "the social environment
where people are encouraging them to do crazy things.
"Eric Adamson, Residential Advisor
of the all-frosh dorm Junipero, agrees. He noted: "With the freshmen
there is less experience with the [party] setting, even if there is some with the substance."In an effort to combat freshmen's irresponsibility with alcohol, the University
instituted a new policy in the fall of 2003 which states that alcoholic beverages can no longer be served in the public spaces of all-frosh dorms. While Stanford Chief of Police Laura Wilson said that it is still too early to tell statistically if this measure had led to a decrease in the alcohol-related hospitalizations
of freshmen, she thinks that the reform has led to a "greater awareness and understanding among students that misuse of alcohol can have tragic consequences."
R.A. Adamson sees the measure as an example of the Stanford administration
attempting to seek a balance between maintaining control and giving students as much freedom as possible. "I think the impression that most people have," he said "is that the administration is just legally covering itself while maintaining its [Residential
Education] tact." But both Chief Wilson and Adamson feel that the Res-Ed principle works as a better tactic than forcing sobriety upon students. "I don't see drinking as a problem per se but the irresponsibility,
the abuse of the substance is the problem," reasons Adamson.
Agrees Chief Wilson: "I don't think that prevention alone is the answer. I don't think that enforcement alone is the answer."The University uses this philosophy of education over militancy when defining the role of an R.A. Explains Adamson: "Our role is to educate the residents about the risks they're accepting.
We're also trained in responding to an issue if a problem should arise. We're trained in assessing the situation, monitoring the student and [if necessary]
calling 911." Afterwards, Adamson
is expected to discuss the problem with the resident and (if the situation occurs repeatedly) refer the student to additional resources.
However, not all Stanford freshmen feel that they need to binge drink or drink at all to have a good time.
Micah Naimark is motivated not to drink or smoke before his 19th birthday because of the promise of a monetary reward from his parents. Nevertheless, he does not feel that this inhibits him in the college party scene.
"I think…it's sometimes sad when people think alcohol is the only way to have fun," he said. "You can still interact
with people who have been drinking,
go to parties and meet people." He added: "Alcohol doesn't have to be the ice-breaker."