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Leaked memo reveals extent of communication between Resident Assistants, Resident Fellows about student drinking

Staff members in Stern Hall residence accidentally distributed sensitive information detailing residents drinking, vomiting to entire dorm

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A leaked memo from two Resident Assistants (RAs) in an all-freshman dorm in Stern Hall has revealed the extent to which staff members communicate residents’ social and drinking behavior to Resident Fellows (RFs) on a regular basis.

On Sunday, Oct. 14 at 2:06 a.m., an incident report was accidentally sent to all residents of the dorm instead of just staff and RFs. The informally written memo recorded the students’ behavior that night between 8:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. chronologically and in half-hour or hourly intervals. The students were identified by name.

To protect the medical privacy of residents named in the memo and to avoid implicating uninvolved staff members within the residence, The Daily has chosen to withhold the name of the specific dorm.

Immediately following the leak, the University Privacy Office initiated an investigation into the incident, according to Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris.

The memo detailed events ranging from “wholesome” alcohol-free interactions to reports of a student who was intoxicated, a student who took five shots within an hour and a half and a student who vomited in a restroom.

“Around 11:45 [p.m.] … [a student] had thrown up in the … bathroom,” the memo said. “[One student] and [another student] helped her clean it up and I provided Clorox wipes. [One student] was coherent and also helping clean.”

Dorm staff members have not responded to The Daily’s request for comment.

The RAs also noted each “gathering” that was going on in the dorm, whether alcohol was present at those gatherings and whether each one was “registered.”

“Reaction to the [leaked memo] was mixed,” said an individual who requested anonymity. “Some thought it was humorous, while others were understandably upset by it. Regardless, it caught everyone off guard that these notes were taken and recorded in the first place.”

A dorm resident said that not having known this information was being collected made some residents uncomfortable, adding that they were “a little upset that [they] were in the dark about this the whole time.”

Since the leak, the resident said, some residents have floated the idea that they either be formally included on future such communications or be alerted when they get named therein. However, those ideas have not been brought before dorm staff as far as the resident knew.

RAs in multiple dormitories confirmed that, despite new protocol from Residential Education (ResEd), staff members across residences have been collecting and sending such information to RFs for years. According to the RAs, this takes place while RAs are “on call” in the dorm, which typically happens on Friday and Saturday nights from around 8:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. and involves providing alternatives to attending parties that night.

Harris confirmed the regularity with which this information is reported, writing in an email to The Daily that these reports are intended to summarize incidents “in order to facilitate communication among staff members and respond to critical situations.”

She added that “assessing student conduct is an important protective factor for students who may need support and education about healthy and safe behaviors.”

However, on call reports from 2014 — shared with The Daily by a former dorm RF — demonstrate that the Stern dorm’s memo went into more detail than is always the case.

The first report from the former RF only discusses one resident in detail. That resident is referred to by their initials, and the report describes them as having played a drinking game and then received a verbal warning from a staff member.

The second such report refers to residents by neither name nor initials, instead just describing a large party — featuring both alcohol and non-resident attendees — that happened in the dorm and resulted in light disciplinary action.

Both of the 2014 reports were shared as text emails at the time. However, staff in different houses vary in their methods of communicating reports. While emails are the norm for some, others use methods — ranging from GroupMe to Google Docs to Slack — that are less prone to accidental disclosure.

“We anticipate our investigation of this incident will help us improve safeguards,” Harris said. “This may include technical solutions and, as needed, additional training based on best practices.”

Ten minutes after the Stern dorm’s report was released to residents, an RA involved in the leak followed up with an apology email sent to the whole dorm.

“[The email said] that it was an accident and if anyone had any questions about what was said, or what was reported, then to come talk to … staff,” a dorm resident recalled.

“Then Sunday evening,” the resident continued, “an email was sent out to residents by the RFs.”

That email referred to “sharing information” as “ResEd’s standard operating procedures” and said that doing so is a necessary part of staffing but should be done in a way that maintains student privacy.

“One way of responding [to student issues] well is being mindful of the past,” the RFs wrote. “So, it’s important to share nonjudgmental descriptions of what’s been happening as well as assessed needs so that other staff members can be informed and thoughtful during every weekend and every other day throughout the year.”

Residents later received an email from Privacy Officer Danielle Brooks on behalf of the University Privacy Office asking them to permanently delete the email and reply with confirmation that they had done so.

“At Stanford University, we take privacy very seriously, and we apologize for any inconvenience this error may have caused you,” Brooks wrote.

The exact same email was sent again two days later to remind students to delete the leaked memo, a dorm resident said. However, they added, “hardly anybody” has done so.

The Daily has reached out to the dorm RFs and Brooks for comment.

 

This report has been updated to include old on call reports from a former RF, as well as comment from Harris and dorm residents.

This report will be continually updated as more details and perspectives come to light.

 

Contact Brian Contreras at brianc42 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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