Alcohol policy check-in
Six months after the university updated its alcohol policy to include a ban on large containers of hard liquor in student residences and prohibited hard alcohol at undergraduate parties, there has been an encouraging decline in the number of students needing alcohol-related emergency medical aid or receiving police citations for alcohol offenses, according to statistics from fall and winter quarters.
Prevention programs to support Cardinal Nights events without alcohol and to expand the 5-SURE safe ride and safe walks services are being expanded thanks to an anonymous gift last fall to the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education.
“While we recognize that the initial rollout and rationale for the updated alcohol policy could have been better communicated, we are seeing early results that seem to show heightened awareness and improvements in the most serious problems,” Provost Persis Drell said. “We will continue to monitor and evaluate these programs, which are intended to keep students healthy and safe. We know this process has not been easy and we continue to welcome the community’s feedback.”
Since the hard liquor container ban went into effect in September, student emergency transport incidents for alcohol poisoning have declined by 34 percent from the five-year running average of 44 for this time of year to 29 currently.
Additionally, 63 percent of first-year students surveyed last fall reported pre-gaming (drinking alcohol before going out) and 64 percent reported consuming shots of hard alcohol. These responses represented declines of about 20 percent under the new policy compared to 2015. Both of these high-risk behaviors are linked to alcohol poisoning.
Citations for minors in possession of alcohol – people under 21 carrying alcohol of any kind on campus – also have declined by 22 percent, with 23 citations so far this year, down from the five-year running average of 30 for this time of year.
Two-thirds of the way through the academic year, only a handful of Stanford students have been detained by police for intoxication. Previously, an average of 20 students each academic year have been detained for their safety.
“Some preliminary findings are encouraging, but need to be interpreted with caution. We still need more time to measure long-term change and assess shifts in the hard alcohol drinking culture,” said Ralph Castro, director of the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE). “The ultimate goal is to enhance student health and safety by empowering our students to make good choices around alcohol consumption.”
This academic year, the OAPE program received a gift from an anonymous donor to significantly increase its educational programs and services. The popular Cardinal Nights events – alcohol-free programs that serve thousands of students – will be expanded with more events serving both west and east campus on weekends; additional quarterly events such as concerts and comedians will be added. The gift will also expand the 5-SURE of Foot program that offers safe walks home and allowed for the purchase of a second hybrid vehicle to provide 5-SURE safe rides each night, seven days a week.
The additional funding will also increase prevention programs, allowing peer health educators to conduct residentially based alcohol and drug education. This peer-to-peer education was recommended by students who took part in OAPE focus groups last fall.
The updated alcohol policy enacted last September prohibits containers of 750 mL and above in undergraduate student residences. Smaller containers are allowed for people 21 years of age or older, and alcohol must be contained and stored in the original container in which it was purchased. Hard alcohol was also prohibited in all categories of undergraduate student parties, including those in residences with members 21 and over.
“Our concerns stem from the fact that serious alcohol issues have occurred with our students at every level, from undergraduate through graduate and professional,” Castro said. “While first-year undergraduates have higher incidents of alcohol poisoning transports to the emergency room than other classes, we also see a broad distribution of serious alcohol-related problems among all of our students, including DUI and dependency issues.”
Additional information about the updated alcohol policies can be found at https://alcohol.stanford.edu/alcohol-policy-faqs.
At the end of the academic year, a report will be released outlining key findings and statistics collected during the year to inform the community of progress.