Concerned about the "dangerously high rates" of undergraduate alcohol use on campus, Stanford University announced this week several initiatives underway to combat the issue.
In a message to students on Monday, Provost Persis Drell and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole wrote that the university has become increasingly worried about not only the prevalence but the long-term consequences of drinking for adolescents and young adults.
A "growing body of evidence" suggests that "binge drinking in particular can cause persistent brain injury at the exact time in life when there is the absolute most to gain (or lose) in terms of education and growth," they wrote. "We cannot turn away from this, given we are here to provide the very best environment for your education."
Survey and other data suggest that a "substantial percentage" of undergraduate Stanford students consume alcohol at "dangerously high rates," the two administrators said. Students are regularly brought to the emergency room for alcohol poisoning and this fall, an "alarming" number of students were found alone outdoors, passed out due to alcohol consumption, they wrote.
In 2016, Stanford banned hard alcohol at undergraduate parties and limited the size of liquor containers students are allowed to have in campus housing. The North American Interfraternity Conference, a national association to which Stanford fraternities belong, followed suit and is requiring all of its members — 6,100 chapters across 800 campuses — to ban hard alcohol from their facilities and events by Sept. 1.
While approximately 1,800 college students die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including car crashes, the university is "unaware of any alcohol-related undergraduate deaths in the past two decades," Drell and Brubaker-Cole said.
To address on-campus drinking, Stanford is examining its own data and policies, increasing training and looking to offer students more alternative social options on campus.
Students taking a Stanford Law School practicum course focused on excessive alcohol use among Stanford undergraduates, led by former law school Dean Paul Brest and School of Medicine professor Keith Humphreys, are taking a deep dive into the problem and will release the results of their work and recommendations during the winter quarter, Drell and Brubaker-Cole said.
A new Alcohol Solutions Group made up of students, faculty and staff will work with the law school practicum to "consider steps we should take in light of what we are learning about high-risk drinking here, safety risks such as blackouts and injuries, and lasting impacts on brain development," they wrote. More information about this group, including opportunities for student participation, are forthcoming, they said.
Stanford is also compiling data on student alcohol consumption and plans to release a full report on it this quarter.
Cardinal Nights, which provides non-alcoholic social alternatives in an effort to "challenge the faulty normative belief that alcohol is needed in order to have fun on a college campus," as well as 5-SURE, a free ride service, will both be expanded this year through a one-time donation. In the 2017-18 school year, Cardinal Night events were attended by more than 22,000 students and approximately 10,5000 passengers used the ride service, the administrators wrote in their message.
Stanford also plans to bring together a group of students to suggest how the university can build additional space designed for student events to encourage alternative social options. Students who are interested in getting involved should email Assistant Vice Provost for Strategy and Assessment Jennifer Calvert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To better support student well-being, the university is partnering with New York-based youth mental health nonprofit the Jed Foundation, which helps colleges develop strategic plans to address mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention.
All residential student staff are receiving increased training, support and resources related to responding and intervening in excessive drinking that occurs in dorms.