Parents Alcohol Advisory Group: One year later

The chair of the Parents Alcohol Advisory Group updates parents about the group’s activities, results of its efforts and challenges for the future.

By Sally Lannin, chair of the Parents Alcohol Advisory Group

A year ago, a group of Stanford parents began meeting with university officials to discuss the continuing challenge of drinking among college students in general and our children in particular.

I’m writing to report back on our progress, which has been considerable, but to regretfully acknowledge that there is still more work to be done.

Sallie Lannin
Sally Lannin

During the past year, our group helped write a letter to freshman parents, asking them to have frank talks with their children about expectations around drinking. The good news is that 83 percent of freshman report having had such conversations with their parents. Direct correlations are hard to prove, but it appears our efforts are having an effect: hospital transports among freshmen due to excessive drinking are down so far this year.

As those of you who attended Parents’ Weekend know, Provost John Etchemendy credited the efforts of parents with helping to decrease dangerous incidents of drinking among freshmen. He asked all of us—freshman parents or otherwise—to continue talking to our children about our expectations around drinking. I’d like to reiterate that request in this report. Even one transport would be one too many. Remember that research shows that even one conversation around drinking between parent and child can have a profound effect on college drinking.

I am also happy to report that the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE) has made progress in its first full year at Stanford. OAPE has enhanced alcohol education across campus, provided clarity in the application of the university’s student alcohol policy, created social events for students that deemphasize alcohol, worked to shift the campus culture away from hard liquor and collected data to assess trends and efforts.

OAPE is having particular success with Cardinal Nights, which are non-alcoholic social events. There have been 48 such events so far this year, with 12,531 student attendees. Survey results show students like the events and are likely to recommend them to friends.

In addition, OAPE visited some 28 residences with first-year students in the first two weeks of classes to provide alcohol education. The office’s popular “New Red Cup” provides measurements to help curb consumption among students who choose to drink. Its mottCN2_final copy 2o is “Stay Classy.”

During Parents’ Weekend, members of our committee participated in a discussion panel for parents about alcohol. I am grateful to my fellow members for their willingness to share their families’ experiences—both good and bad—to spur conversations among parents.

In the coming year, our committee plans to continue to communicate with parents about the benefits of making their expectations around drinking clear. We also hope to expand our efforts to include discussions with other administrators whose areas of expertise cover unintended consequences of drinking, including representatives of the Department of Public Safety and the Office of Sexual Assault & Relationship Abuse Education & Response.

Stanford is doing its part to diminish at-risk drinking among students. Parents need to continue to do their part, as well. No one wants to receive that heart-breaking, late-night call from university administrators reporting that his or her child has been transported to the hospital and is being treated in the Emergency Room because of excessive and dangerous drinking.

If you haven’t talked to your student about his or her drinking habits yet, please do so. And if you have, please accept our thanks and our encouragement to continue doing so over the summer break.

As Provost Etchemendy so clearly stated during Parents’ Weekend, the university—try as it might—cannot hold a candle to parents when it comes to influencing student behavior.