New rules banning ‘hard alcohol’ and ‘shots’ from campus events were unveiled months after Brock Turner blamed his sexual assault on school’s ‘party culture
Stanford University has banned liquor from campus parties with a new policy that critics say is a tone-deaf response to growing concerns about sexual assault.
The elite northern California school – which faced widespread scrutiny after former swimmer Brock Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a fraternity – announced on Monday that “hard alcohol” and “shots” of liquor would be banned from all on-campus parties open to undergraduates.
The new rules – which also prohibit certain “high-volume” liquor containers from undergraduate housing – were unveiled months after Turner blamed his sexual assault on Stanford’s “party culture ... surrounded by binge drinking and sexual promiscuity”.
In its announcement, Stanford said the policy change is designed to “reduce the availability and accessibility of hard alcohol” and is part of a broader effort to “meaningfully change the campus culture around alcohol”.
Critics on campus said the new rules appeared to be a clear public relations effort to respond to the Turner controversy, and some said they were worried that the changes may only increase safety risks associated with drinking.
One concern is that by banning liquor from public parties, the university is inadvertently encouraging students to binge drink in dorm rooms where perpetrators of sexual assault may be even more likely to attack vulnerable victims. Additionally, critics of the policy worry that students will drink much more heavily before parties, meaning that once they show up, there will be greater risks that someone might take advantage of them.
“I actually think this is putting students in danger,” said Michele Landis Dauber, a Stanford law professor and vocal critic of the university’s sexual assault policies. “It’s going to drive it underground … and encourage this super quick consumption not in a public area.”
By targeting drinking at parties, it opens the door for juniors and seniors who are 21 and older to entice younger women to come to their dorms and drink there, she said.
Turner, who was convicted of multiple felonies, assaulted a woman by a dumpster after a fraternity party and was caught when two bystanders saw him “thrusting” on top of the motionless woman and intervened.
“Brock Turner said he was a victim of Stanford’s alcohol culture … and I believe Stanford was really stung and embarrassed,” said Dauber, who is a family friend of Turner’s victim and is leading a campaign to recall the judge who gave him a light sentence.
She said she feared the rule could also increases risks of alcohol poisoning.
Critics say that instead of focusing on preventing excessive drinking, which is inevitable on college campuses, universities should be working to shift the culture around sexual assault, provide thorough education on consent and hold perpetrators accountable in meaningful ways.
If the university was serious about changing alcohol rules in an effort to stop sexual assaults, then administrators should be reevaluating how it regulates fraternity parties and social events for athletes, Dauber added.
Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Lapin did not respond to questions about the criticisms and emailed the Guardian an earlier statement from president John Hennessy and provost John Etchemendy in which they noted that more than 1,800 college students die each year from alcohol-related incidents and that nearly 100,000 experience sexual violence tied to alcohol consumption.
“We need new solutions – solutions that reduce risk for students, that reduce the pressure on students to drink, and that meaningfully change our culture around alcohol,” they wrote.