Stanford University bans hard liquor on campus

California’s Stanford University has revised its student liquor policy and banned hard liquor on campus following a sexual assault involving a student.

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Stanford University in California

The ban, which goes “beyond state law requirements”, applies to all undergraduate and coterminal students living in undergraduate housing and prohibits 750ml and larger containers of distilled liquor, spirits and hard alcohol, specifically alcohol by volume 20% and above or 40 proof.

It also prohibits hard alcohol at all on-campus parties, with the exception of parties hosted by student organisations and residences whose membership is 100% graduate students. Beer and wine are the only alcoholic beverages now permitted at all on-campus undergraduate student parties.

A student aged 21 years or older can possess, store and consume hard alcohol as long as it is in compliance with the university’s container policy – original bottles and containers smaller than 750 mL.

“Our intention is not a total prohibition of a substance, but rather a targeted approach that limits high-risk behaviour and has the backing of empirical studies on restricting the availability of and access to alcohol”, the university said.

“It also allows us the ability to provide uniformity in a policy that will impact all undergraduate students without banning a substance that is legal for a segment of the student population to use responsibly.”

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While the university said that the ban was the result of a dialogue that has been taking place among students, faculty and staff since March, it follows an incident in January 2015 which led to the conviction of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner for the sexual assault of a 22-year-old woman who was intoxicated. Turner received a six-month prison term, three years probation, and had to register as a sex offender, but blamed the university claiming that he was a victim of Stanford’s alcohol culture.

“When considering a policy, one can look at it through multiple lenses”, said Greg Boardman, vice provost for student affairs, on the changes.

“I challenge you not to focus on the policy as something to be worked around. Instead, I ask you to bring your best selves to this endeavor, to consider the real concerns raised by your fellow students, and those articulated here, and to be a part of solving this problem. We must create a campus community that allows for alcohol to be a part of the social lives of some of our students, but not to define the social and communal lives of all of our students.”

However the ban has already been criticised with some suggesting that it will only serve to drive hard alcohol “underground” and increase crime.

“I actually think this is putting students in danger”, Michele Landis Dauber, a Stanford law professor told Reuters. “It’s going to drive it underground … and encourage this super quick consumption not in a public area.”

Instead of prohibiting alcohol, Dauber said institutions should focus on sexual assault violence and provide thorough education on consent, holding perpetrators responsible in “meaningful ways”.

Last year US Ivy League college Dartmouth banned its students from drinking or possessing hard alcohol on campus in a bid to boost its beleaguered reputation, amid concerns that high-risk drinking was “hijacking” students’ potential.

At the time, the school was one of many US colleges under federal investigation for its handling of sexual harassment and violence and allegations relating to fraternity hazing. The school formed the backdrop for the 1978 film Animal House, which centres on the drunken behaviour of its Alpha Delta fraternity.

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