Stanford cracks down on alcohol, not sexual assault

Columnist Jahred Nunes

Columnist Jahred Nunes

Undergraduate students at Stanford University are no longer allowed to drink or be in possession of hard alcohol with 20 percent alcohol content or above on campus.

With the infamous Brock Turner sentence, turning only a mere three months old this September, the Stanford swimmer was found guilty of three felony sexual assault charges and sentenced to six months in jail. It’s hard to believe this policy change is simply a coincidence, but rather an action that speaks to greater volumes of Stanford’s view on sexual assault.

In one of the most famous quotes to come out of this case, the anonymous victim stated, “Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked.”

In March, however, Stanford President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy sent a mass email to their students regarding alcohol misuse.

“Alcohol, and particulary 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,” the email read. “We need new solutions, sollutions that reduce risk for students, that reduce the pressure on students to drink, and that meaningfully change our culture around alcohol.”

Stanford’s “new solution,” similar to policy changes recently seen on many other campuses, not only disputes the victim’s statement but seems to side with Turner by blaming alcohol for his actions. Critics are saying this new policy will not solve problems of sexual misconduct on campus.

TIME Magazine released a report claiming policies such as Stanford’s “new solution” are “ideas that haven’t been widely tested.” Following up with data from Dartmouth University’s school newspaper, it showed after a school-wide study, 85 percent of students had consumed hard alcohol after their policy change.

It’s also important to note that Stanford is only banning alcohol with 20 percent alcohol content and above, leaving alcoholic beverage with a smaller percentage still up for grabs. 

 “I think these kind of bans are well intentioned and obviously schools want to make their students safe, but you know, alcohol is alcohol,” Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism George Koob said to TIME magazine. “It’s true that distilled beverages will get you to a higher [blood-alcohol level] in a shorter period of time, but beyond that, it’s pretty easy to binge on beer or wine.”

The most important critique to the new Stanford policy is it doesn’t address sexual assault on campus but instead files sexual assault and misconduct behind “high-risk behavior.”

Stanford Law professor Michelle Dauber reported her skepticism of the policy to TIME.

“I just think that this policy is a ‘Look, we’re doing something moment, but what it’s doing is potentially more dangerous for students,” Dauber said. “It’s going to lead to people doing it secretly instead of openly, in enclosed spaces instead of in public—and potentially lead to more cases of sexual assault.”