On Monday, Provost Persis Drell and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole announced in an email that the University will expand 5-SURE and Cardinal Nights in an effort to better address alcohol use concerns in an academic environment. The email, calling for engagement by the Stanford community, also announced plans to launch various new initiatives to address factors related to high-risk drinking.
Drell and Brubaker-Cole wrote that while they are unaware of any alcohol-related undergraduate deaths in the last 20 years, they remain “deeply concerned” in light of data reflecting a substantial share of Stanford undergraduates consuming alcohol at dangerously high rates.
The email cited regular alcohol transports among Stanford undergraduates, as well as “an alarming number of students” found unconscious outdoors in fall quarter.
“We are struck by the prevalence of binge drinking, the norms it creates, and the consequences,” Drell and Brubaker-Cole wrote.
They added that brain injury linked to binge drinking is especially concerning in an educational environment.
“There is … a growing body of evidence to suggest 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.”
Changes in University approach
As evidence of Stanford’s altered approach on alcohol safety, Drell and Brubaker-Cole listed five specific initiatives.
According to the email, an expansion of the 5-SURE campus escort service and Cardinal Nights non-alcoholic social programming are initiatives Stanford is pursuing to “re-engage campus in a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to lessen high-risk drinking.” The two programs — expanded this year after a “generous” one-time donation — have increased in popularity during the 2017-2018 academic year, with 22,000 people attending Cardinal Nights and 10,500 passengers using 5-SURE.
In winter quarter, the Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs will hear policy recommendations from the Stanford Law School Policy Lab on Alcohol Use Among Stanford Undergraduates, a group of undergraduates and law students currently analyzing University policies.
In addition, Stanford is in the process of becoming a JED Campus; the nonprofit Jed Foundation partners with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention programs and systems.
“Becoming a JED Campus … will help us strengthen a number of campus-wide factors that together support student mental health and well-being,” Drell and Brubaker-Cole wrote.
Other JED Campuses include five of the eight Ivy League Schools and 19 California institutions, including UC Davis and Santa Clara University.
The University is planning to publish a report in winter quarter with data on student alcohol consumption. In addition, residential student staff will receive training, resources and support, with an increased emphasis on alcohol response and intervention.
According to the email, the University will launch an Alcohol Solutions Group in winter quarter. Consisting of students, faculty and staff, the group will collaborate with the Law School Policy Lab to consider steps forward in light of the data on high-risk drinking and brain development. More information on this initiative and the details of student involvement are pending.
“The group will 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,” Monday’s email read.
In response to student voices advocating for a more active campus social scene, Drell and Brubaker-Cole announced plans to create a student group to formulate potential improvements in the Stanford social scene.
“We know that no single initiative or policy will address the myriad factors to consider,” Drell and Brubaker-Cole wrote. “… we are preparing to re-engage campus in a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to lessen high-risk drinking.”
Monday’s email marks the most recent of a series of changes to the University’s approach to alcohol safety. In 2016, the University implemented an updated alcohol policy including a restriction on high-volume containers of distilled liquor.
In Jan. 2018, Drell and Brubaker-Cole wrote to undergraduates expressing their concerns regarding alcohol consumption on campus and calling for collaboration from the undergraduate end to shift the direction of Stanford’s alcohol culture in a safer direction.
And in Sept. 2018, Residential Education (ResEd) redefined what constitutes “high-risk behavior” under its substance use policies. Student staff members expressed concern over the “high-risk” label, which covered behaviors ranging in severity from beer pong and smoking marijuana to taking shots and blacking out.
A leaked memo in Oct. 2018 revealed details on the level of communication between student staff and resident fellows regarding residents’ high-risk behavior.
The Daily has reached out to University officials for comment.