The number of alcohol-related hospitalizations has accelerated over the last month, according to the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE).
OAPE Director Ralph Castro acknowledged that while the number of transports earlier in the quarter had been similar to previous years, the University is currently experiencing a higher than average number of alcohol-related hospitalizations.
The University has averaged two to three transports each weekend since Halloween, according to Castro. This statistic suggests that a transport has been occurring approximately each weekend night, on average. The majority of transports constitute upperclassmen, according to Castro, while freshmen remain a plurality of cases, as in previous years.
Castro downplayed the significance of the increase in transports, noting that the OAPE’s emphasis on providing alcohol-free entertainment and educating students about the dangers of high-risk drinking may have developed a more responsible student body.
“As increased attention is placed on high-risk drinking, more students are aware and may be calling for help at an increased rate,” Castro said in an email to The Daily. “So, the increase may be due to positive care-taking behaviors, rather than more drinking.”
The efforts of the OAPE, which was created at the start of this academic year to reduce high-risk drinking, have included the Cardinal Nights initiative, outreach to freshman dorms and a new emphasis on reminding students that they are ethically responsible for their peers.
Castro said that Cardinal Nights events have been generally well attended and that feedback from students has been extremely positive, although the program’s recent beginning has made it hard to draw conclusions about any impact on transports.
Clifford Nass, resident fellow in Otero, praised the impact of the OAPE’s creation, saying that it effectively consolidated alcohol policy and showed that the University is taking the initiative in addressing high-risk drinking.
“The important thing is that the University is saying that there are things we should be doing to address this problem,” Nass said. “Alcohol is no longer being treated as an individual issue, but as the product of group activity.”
Nass and the OAPE both identified the common practice of “pre-gaming” for events with hard liquor as the most concerning trend in student drinking.
“Stanford is not immune to this trend, and we are a heavy hard liquor consumption campus,” Castro said. “We are targeting hard liquor in our educational efforts and are telling everyone that hard liquor is the biggest risk factor for alcohol ER transport cases.”
Castro noted that while Stanford is above national averages for hard liquor consumption and pre-gaming, the University, in comparison to its peer institutions, has a lower number of emergency room transports.
The OAPE is currently attempting to become more consistent and raise awareness about the dangers of high-risk drinking. Castro stated that the OAPE this year had a specific focus on educating freshmen on the dangers of high-risk drinking.
“Freshman year is a high-risk time in many ways, academically and socially,” Castro said. “Given that many frosh were not regular drinkers in high school, the risk for situational alcohol-related problems is high.”
The OAPE looked at other colleges’ attitudes toward alcohol issues before formulating the University’s Student Alcohol Policy, which Castro asserted offers clearer and more consistent policies in targeting high-risk drinking.
Nass expressed cautious optimism with regards to the OAPE’s initiatives, commenting that students are assuming increasing responsibility for their peers. Nass also said that the number of student staff present in dorms and the tendency of students to drink on-campus in relatively safer surroundings should naturally help reduce high-risk drinking in any case.
Castro said that active support and engagement by the student body will be needed to ensure that the OAPE’s efforts in targeting high-risk drinking are effective.
“I believe that every student can buy into the idea of having a safe and healthy community free of the negative consequences of alcohol misuse,” Castro said. “In order to be successful, we need everyone to do their part.”