In the wake of Stanford University’s controversial decision to restrict hard alcohol at on-campus undergraduate parties, Yale students say the strategy will likely prove ineffective in addressing concerns about party culture and sexual misconduct, and that they hope not to see a similar ban implemented in New Haven.
Stanford updated its alcohol policy on Aug. 22, on the heels of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner’s conviction for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Turner, whose case garnered national attention, later blamed alcohol and party culture for his behavior. Stanford officials have said the ban was not specifically related to the case, but rather meant to address larger concerns about alcohol overall. The decision flies in the face of an April referendum in which 91 percent of Stanford students voted against a hard-alcohol ban, according to the Stanford Daily.
Melanie Boyd, who directs Yale’s Office of Gender and Campus Culture and is also involved in the Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm Reduction Initiative, said in an email to the News that though “on-the-ground experiments” such as Stanford’s ban are interesting and informative, there is not any discussion of implementing a similar policy at Yale.
Yale students interviewed said Stanford’s ban reinforces misguided stereotypes about sexual assault on college campuses.
“It really plays into these harmful narratives that blame alcohol or partying for sexual assault, rather than people who commit sexual assault,” said Helen Price ’18, co-founder and director of Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale.
Alka Nath, a former Peer Health Educator at Stanford who graduated in June, said the decision appears more like Stanford “checking a box” rather than taking meaningful action to improve overall concerns about party culture.
A current resident assistant at Stanford, who asked to remain anonymous, said his first reaction was “complete shock” upon hearing the decision. He added that he was “hurt and surprised” that the Stanford administration failed to heed the voices of students, who overwhelmingly voted against the ban. Support amongst Stanford staff members, including RAs, was also minimal, he said, as the new ban threatens the goals of RA positions. Policing students precludes RAs from providing effective and friendly guidance, and may discourage students from reporting alcohol-related dangers for fear of getting in trouble, the student said.
“There is no way I can achieve the goals that Stanford has set out for its staff members … with this new policy,” he said. “I wanted to be an RA so I can make a difference in these 90 kids’ lives, and I don’t feel as if can make as big as an impact while still policing them.”
Yale has a Medical Emergency Policy, which allows students to report alcohol-related health issues without facing severe disciplinary consequences. All freshman counselors and Communication and Consent Educators contacted said University policy prohibits them from commenting and referred questions to Boyd.
Boyd has told the News in the past that the policy is the University’s way of treating drinking as a public health, rather than a disciplinary, issue.
Ted Mauze ’18, the president of Yale’s Sigma Nu fraternity — an organization that could be affected if a ban like Stanford’s were implemented at Yale — said that though the fraternity understands the reasoning behind Stanford’s decision, the fraternity should “maintain the right to make good decisions with regards to our own consumption and the consumption of others in our house.” He added, however, that the fraternity would respect the ban if one were instituted.
Price said that most students at universities are already breaking the law by drinking underage anyway. As a result, the ban would only drive people to continue drinking illicitly and drink more heavily before events, she said. People would also be more hesitant to report sexual assault if hard alcohol were involved, she argued.
Rather than creating policies that would ultimately be ineffective, those interviewed said resources should go toward health and consent education. Price added that concerns about sexual misconduct should be addressed by putting resources into “prosecuting and expelling” those who have committed sexual assault.
“These type of policies [like the Stanford alcohol ban] aren’t even just stupid,” Price said. “They are actively harmful.”