Stanford Plans Ban on Hard Alcohol in Dorms

Wednesday morning, Stanford administrators will announce a proposal to ban hard alcohol from all dorms. This is a major departure from Stanford’s current open-door policy that allows students to make their own decisions so long as they are “healthy” and “responsible”.

Multiple sources have told the Stanford Review, on the condition of anonymity, that Stanford’s President and Dean of ResEd met Tuesday with RFs to discuss the new proposal. A number of RFs were strongly opposed to the measure, but the University has nonetheless reportedly decided to press ahead with the initiative. We also have reports that a University committee recommended that the ban, if instituted at all, should only apply to freshman dorms.

Tuesday evening, Rinconada’s RFs announced that their house meeting tomorrow would discuss the policy, saying that they “see many many problems with it” and that they would aim to “stav[e] off this ban” by “brainstorm[ing] possible alternative plans that would make this campus safer”.

While administrators told RFs that they will listen to student feedback, our sources expressed doubt, fearing that Stanford will be unresponsive to students’ concerns. This mirrors criticism of Stanford’s decision to abolish support for Full Moon on the Quad last week.

The University, when asked for comment, provided a transcript of the email sent to all undergraduates Wednesday morning (copied below). Other Residence Deans contacted have either not replied or declined to comment.

This is a rapidly developing story. We will update this article as we receive more information. 

Update 1: We initially mistakenly titled the Dean of ResEd the “Director”. This error has now been amended.

Update 2: We have added a paragraph with information on Rinconada’s RFs’ email to their dorm. Full text of the email can be found below:

Hello Rincers!

Tomorrow night’s House Meeting is an important chance for us to talk about a proposed policy change that will affect the rest of your time at Stanford. The President and the Provost met with the RFs tonight to discuss their plan to ban hard alcohol next Fall possibly in all residences on campus (except grad housing).

Dan and I, as well as almost all of the RFs on campus, have some very serious concerns about this plan. We see many many problems associated with it. At this point, we have been given an opportunity to work with our staffs and our residents to come up with some alternative plans that would help curb the very dangerous levels of alcohol consumption here on campus. If we can generate some viable and effective ideas, we have the chance of staving off this ban. So, we would like to meet with you tomorrow at House Meeting to brainstorm possible alternative plans that would make this campus safer.

We have a month to come up with alternatives before a final decision will be made about next Fall. As you can see, this is a VERY IMPORTANT HOUSE MEETING. We understand people may be upset and frustrated – and with good reason. However, we will want to move as quickly as possible into the idea generation and solutions space. In order to be respectful of your time and maximize our time together, we would like to jump into planning as soon as possible. If people want/need to vent and talk more about it afterwards, we will stay later to do so.

*Update 3: The President and Provost did indeed email campus Wednesday morning to announce proposals and discussion related to alcohol. Full text of the email can be found below:*
Dear Students:

Last night, the two of us met with the Resident Fellows from across the Stanford campus to begin renewing our community’s conversation about a persistent challenge: alcohol misuse.

Colleges and universities across the country continue to wrestle with alcohol and the high-risk behaviors that can result from its misuse. It is estimated that more than 1,800 college students die each year from alcohol-related incidents, nearly 700,000 experience alcohol-related physical assaults, and nearly 100,000 experience alcohol-related sexual violence, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Many universities have identified hard alcohol as playing a particularly dangerous role in their undergraduate communities, in the form of shots and pre-gaming.

At Stanford, we have worked together – students, staff, and faculty – in many ways in recent years to build a healthier campus culture around alcohol. We have created more substance-free social opportunities through the Cardinal Nights program. Educational efforts have expanded, spearheaded both by the university and by student groups. Fraternities and sororities have assumed greater accountability for organizational conduct. Campus alcohol policies (which make clear the illegal nature of alcohol consumption for those under 21) have been strengthened and provide extensive guidance in responsible party planning.

Despite the progress that has been made, we believe a serious issue still confronts this campus. 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.

We began our conversation last night with the Resident Fellows because Stanford has a strong, residentially based undergraduate community. The Resident Fellows and student staff work to create in each house a culture that reflects values shaped collectively by the community – learning, personal development, inclusion, mutual respect, and accountability. We wish to preserve the strength of our residential system while making real progress in reducing the harm that still comes to too many of our students.

Last night’s meeting started a structured conversation in the Residential Education community around these issues which we hope to continue during the spring quarter. In addition, we want broad student engagement and input.

We welcome ideas from students and other members of the campus community for new ways of tackling this pressing challenge. The importance and persistence of this issue have led the two of us to contemplate options that we have not in the past, including broad bans on hard alcohol in undergraduate residences. But we believe a serious campus conversation is what is called for at the moment.

Please feel free to email us with your ideas, and please engage your friends and housemates in this conversation as well. We welcome your best thinking as well as your personal recommitment to supporting the health, safety, and well-being of everyone in our campus community.


John L. Hennessy

John Etchemendy

*Update 4: We have added the fact that Residence Deans have declined to comment on this matter.*

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