OAPE offers alternative social scene

Nov. 10, 2011, 3:00 a.m.

The Cardinal Nights initiative, an effort by the new Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE) to offer alcohol-free programming for students, has gradually become increasingly relevant in the campus social scene, according to students and University officials.

Cardinal Night events, which have included a viewing party of the USC-Stanford football game and a FLiCKS screening of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” have consistently attracted hundreds of attendees. According to OAPE Assistant Director & Community Engagement Coordinator Angelina Cardona ‘11, the viewing party was the best-attended event, with more than 1,000 students turning up.

Attendance at Cardinal Night has risen since the start of the quarter. Upcoming Cardinal Nights include “Stanford’s Got Talent” and “Big Game Party,” jointly hosted by West Campus dorm staff. The OAPE has sought to market Cardinal Nights to students largely through email, social networking, student leadership and word-of-mouth, Cardona said.

“Before planning Cardinal Nights, I researched what events students wanted to have on campus through focus groups, a survey, as well as through informal input,” Cardona wrote in an email to The Daily.

Cardona said that the Cardinal Nights initiative stemmed from the recommendations of an Alcohol Study Group, consisting of staff, faculty and students, that supported expanded options for socializing on weekends without the pressure to consume alcohol.

“The intent was to offer alternatives that complement the existing social scene [on campus],” said Ralph Castro, associate dean of student affairs and director of OAPE.

Castro noted that Cardinal Nights is only one aspect of OAPE’s efforts. He highlighted OAPE’s outreach education initiatives, which are aimed at increasing student awareness of alcohol issues.

“The goal is to encourage students to think critically about alcohol and to target high risk drinking,” he said.

Castro said that the office is continuing to develop relationships with other student groups.

“Cardinal Nights has several ways for [the] community to engage with the program, including a grant application that any student or student group/dorm/house can fill out to co-host a Cardinal Night,” Cardona said.

Castro noted that the short duration of the Cardinal Nights initiative means any judgment on its effectiveness may be premature. Nevertheless, both he and Cardona have received positive feedback from students. Surveys are circulated during events and in an effort to improve future programming.

“We are open and willing to try many different types of events to see what events are most enjoyed by students,” Cardona said.

While Cardinal Nights is intended to provide alcohol-free experiences accessible to all Stanford students, staff and students alike noted that freshmen have been the primary event participants. Castro indicated that while the events have received positive feedback from some upperclassmen and their student leadership, many upperclassmen remain ambivalent about the initiative.

“The programming is pushed towards freshmen, and upperclassmen can feel that,” said Sarah Bolmer ‘13.

Nevertheless, focusing on the freshman class may prove to be more effective in changing the class’ social dynamic and avoiding ingrained habits retained by upperclassmen, who may be more hesitant to try the new alcohol-free initiative. Cardona wrote that many of the upperclassmen surveyed commented that the existence of such a program in their first year at Stanford “would have made the transition to college ‘a lot easier.’”

While between one quarter and one third of Stanford students refrain from drinking at the University, students highlighted the need to emphasize that the initiative is there for both drinkers and non-drinkers.

“While the initiative is something the campus has needed, there is the perception that the events are exclusively for non-drinkers,” said Paige Romer ‘12.

Bolmer added that the initiative’s programs “are more effective when they build on communities that already exist on campus.”

Nevertheless, students expressed cautious approval of the initiative’s intent, even if the impact thus far has been limited. Students praised the OAPE for establishing a far more coherent alcohol policy than in past years.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement, but it has created a more balanced social scene that will develop in the future,” said Stefan Norgaard ‘15.



Marshall Watkins is a senior staff writer at The Stanford Daily, having previously worked as the paper's executive editor and as the managing editor of news. Marshall is a junior from London majoring in Economics, and can be reached at mtwatkins "at" stanford "dot" edu.

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