Stanford gets ‘social host’ waiver

By and
Jan. 27, 2010, 12:03 a.m.

Stanford is one step closer to receiving a permanent exemption from a county rule holding private residents responsible for underage drinking that occurs on their property.

The “social host” rule, which went into effect in January 2009, allows the county to fine property owners and others “responsible” for underage drinking gatherings. The non-criminal citations start at $350.

Stanford got a one-year exemption from the ordinance in order to demonstrate that its own underage drinking policies are sufficient in light of the rule’s intent: to enforce drinking laws, protect quiet neighborhoods and reduce the cost of police and medical responses to underage emergencies.

Since then, the University has sought to make the exemption permanent, and county board members Tuesday indicated that they agreed, unanimously passing a preliminary amendment to the ordinance exempting non-profit higher education institutions from the social host rule. One supervisor, Dave Cortese, was absent.

The amendment will be up for final adoption on Feb. 9.

In a memo to the county this week, Jean McCown, Stanford’s director of community relations, said the University appreciated the county’s review of existing programs and highlighted the staff recommendation that Stanford “be permitted to implement the goals of the ordinance through institutional administrative policies and programs that are aimed at preventing underage drinking.”

A copy of the University’s alcohol policy was among materials submitted to the board, including Stanford’s basic policy on student drinking: “Students who unlawfully distribute, possess or use controlled substances or alcohol in the workplace, on the campus or as an part of any University activity may be subject to discipline up to and including expulsion.”

University sanctions for individual students on campus facing alcohol-related citations, arrests and emergency room trips were also noted in a summary prepared by Ralph Castro, Stanford’s substance abuse prevention program manager.

Those sanctions increase with the severity of offenses, from minor-in-possession citations — which carry hour-long meetings with a residence dean and substance abuse prevention staff, an online alcohol education course and a possible call to parents — to driving-under-the-influence arrests, which translate to a Judicial Affairs case.

Castro is set to follow up with county staff to map how Stanford will deliver its annual report to the county on the effectiveness of its programs, according to McCown. She said the report will include data the University already tracks, including “how many students were ill enough from alcohol consumption to take them to the emergency room — that’s obviously the most serious one we’re worried about.”

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