Make Stanford Safe Again

Students are outraged over new alcohol policy that clearly does not take the majority opinion into account.

Since it was first proposed to the student body, the Stanford administration’s ban on hard alcohol for undergraduates has inspired nearly unanimous student discontent. Last March,  Vice Provost for Student Affairs Greg Boardman emailed the student body informing them that the policy was under consideration. In a ballot initiative submitted by the Review, students overwhelmingly voted to block it. So when Vice Provost Boardman emailed students on August 23 stating that the Stanford administration was “updating [its] policy to prohibit high volume distilled liquor for undergraduate students and to prohibit hard alcohol at all categories of undergraduate parties,” the response was, predictably, one of outrage.

Within hours, a groupof students launched the Make Stanford Safe Again (MSSA) campaign, selling “safe” (low volume, high proof) alcohol products for students’ personal use to highlight what they referred to as the “stupidity” of the new policy. Twenty-four hours after being launched, the campaign’s website had received over 20,000 views and 200 signups. Its founders “look forward to rolling out production soon.”

Speaking to the Review on a condition of anonymity, they described the University’s new policy as “a serious departure from Stanford’s previous open-door policy that permitted students to drink according to their own discretion as long as they were responsible and healthy. ”They elaborated that though technically the container-size rule outlined in Vice Provost Boardman’semail refers to that of the original alcohol purchased, such technicalities “were both not clear in the email and ridiculously easy to manipulate given that students can just decant the liquid.”

MSSA further noted that the new policy was enacted was remarkably undemocratic. Though former President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy promised in an email to organize a student conversation on alcohol use, a neutral and accessible dialogue does not appear to have been held at any point in the ban’s development.

The MSSA website also allowed students to submit their thoughts on the policy. The campaign submitted a few choice comments to the Review. While some were humorous, predicting “way longer lines at the bathrooms at frat parties,” others were indignant, calling the new policy “fascist” and criticizing the administration for “ignoring the opinion of 91% of your student body.” Others claimed cultural discrimination, asking whether “such culturally important spirits [as many rice wines like soju, shochu, baiju and huangju] will be treated on equal terms by the University and Residential Education with beer and wine” and claiming that “to do otherwise is to privilege the beer and wine drinking cultures of Western Europe over others, and constitutes an unequal act of intolerance.” Of the several hundred reactions to the ban the website has received so far, MSSA leaders report that none have been positive.

Though the prospects for overturning the hard alcohol ban any time soon seem slim, MSSA is proof that the change won’t be accepted quietly. Policies with 91% disapproval ratings seldom do.