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Number of drugging reports surges though reporting policy remains the same: AlertSUs explained

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Anyone with a Stanford email address has received the AlertSU notices week after week. According to Stanford Department of Public Safety (SUDPS) spokesperson Bill Larson, there have been nine potential druggings reported to SUDPS since Sept. 1, including one drugging that occurred off-campus. In 2017, Stanford had zero reports of druggings, and in 2018 there was just one — the case in which seven people were reportedly drugged at the former Sigma Chi house. 

Reports of druggings result in mandatory alerts to the community under the Jeanne Clery Act. The Daily looked into how exactly these AlertSUs work in order to answer common questions about AlertSUs and druggings, including whether any procedure or law has changed this fall to explain the wave of drugging reports.

The wave of reports began on Oct. 12, when a female student who lost consciousness after drinking at a party on the Row tested positive for gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) — a dangerous sedative and common date-rape drug. Since then, there has been a steady trickle of reports with no known connection between them. Many of the reported druggings have occurred in student dorms. Earlier this month, a female student reported a rape after drinking what she later believed to be a suspicious drink, which was given to her by a male student who then had sex with her in his Lagunita dorm room despite her expressed request that he stop. 

The reported drugging wave has occurred amid discussions about the AAU campus climate survey released in October, which found that 14.2% of respondents reported experiencing at least one incident of nonconsensual sexual contact since entering Stanford.

The drugging reports sent out to the community come from SUDPS, which is often tipped by Campus Security Authorities (CSAs), individuals designated as mandatory reporters to local law enforcement for crimes like aggravated assault. Larson told The Daily that SUDPS does not have evidence confirming anyone has been drugged this year, and that the department has received very little identifying information in reports of these crimes.

“We have no evidence to believe the incidents are related,” Larson wrote. “And, again, there have been no confirmed incidents of druggings on campus. Reports have been made by CSAs conveying information that someone had reported to the CSA that they had been drugged or that they thought they might have been drugged. The community alerts that have been sent out were based on the information provided by CSAs.”

When gathering evidence and releasing information to the public, SUDPS balances the wishes of alleged victims with maintaining the safety of the greater community, Larson wrote. California law and the Clery Act require that Stanford notify the community of any “incident that is thought to pose an immediate or ongoing threat to the health or safety of those on campus,” he added.

Once a “Clery-reportable crime believed to present an ongoing threat to the community” has been reported to Stanford law enforcement, a University official sends an AlertSU to the community. All drugging AlertSUs have been timely warnings, as opposed to emergency notifications, with the former being used for crimes and ongoing threats while the latter is reserved for disasters and major dangers at the discretion of the University. Secretly drugging or poisoning someone is classified in California as aggravated assault, making it Clery-reportable per the Stanford Security and Fire Report.

In his statement to The Daily, Larson did not provide a theory about the cause of the spike in drugging reports, but he did say that the recent series of drugging reports is exceptional and concerning. 

On Nov. 1, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole issued a statement to the student body “focused on predatory drugs and what you can do if you think you or someone you know may have been drugged.” 

Brubaker-Cole’s statement went into depth into how the University immediately responds to evidence or reports of druggings.

“Be aware that drugging is a form of violence that can trigger mandatory reporting to law enforcement in California,” she wrote. “As is the case with an individual who has been sexually assaulted, a victim is not required to provide a statement to law enforcement.”

Similar waves of Clery-reportable crimes have occurred in the past, such as the spike in graffiti hate crimes in 2017 and the wave of catalytic converter robberies this summer and autumn. This wave is different, however, in that the individual cases do not seem to be linked.

When The Daily asked Brubaker-Cole what she thought had caused the recent spike in drugging reports, Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris referenced Brubaker Cole’s previous public statements to the community. 

Brubaker-Cole has also produced a video with more information on recent student security concerns.

Contact Cooper Veit at cveit ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Cooper Veit '22 is a local news writer and amateur Steinbeck scholar from San Francisco. Talk to him about the work and life of John Steinbeck.