There are few students more cosseted and protected than those at US universities. Bans on speech, dress and even hairstyles have been enacted in the name of protecting students from harm. So it comes as no surprise to hear that Stanford University has taken student safety a step further and banned drinking hard spirits on campus.
Stanford’s updated student policy seeks to ‘limit high-risk behaviour’. This means that, for any undergraduate student, high-volume alcohol is completely banned from campus parties and is restricted to 750ml containers across campus. In campus accommodation, only alcohol with a 20 per cent or less strength is permitted.
If you’re shaking your head in sober disbelief, wait, there’s more. Stanford has kindly granted students the liberty of indulging in a mixed drink if, and only if, they are at an event hosted by a student organisation or in accommodation comprised entirely of postgraduates. You know, because there’s nothing quite as fun as an evening organised by the Science and Engineering Graduate Women’s Association.
Stanford is playing parent – controlling how, when and in what quantities its students can consume alcohol, even if they’re over 21. The policy was introduced following the trial of ex-Stanford student Brock Turner, who was given a six-month custodial sentence for sexual assault. Turner attributed his crime to the ‘party culture’ on campus, and, in introducing the ban, Stanford is effectively buying his feeble excuse.
This is extremely worrying. Stanford’s attempt to protect its students, with its ‘harm-reduction strategy’, only affirms the idea that students are volatile, easily driven into committing heinous acts, and incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions. This is another worrying example of how little trust is placed in students – and in adults more broadly. Giving students the freedom to drink themselves stupid might mean some messy nights, bitter regrets and difficult morning lectures – but adults must be given the freedom to make these choices themselves.