Students reflect on Admit Weekend alcohol policy

May 3, 2012, 2:55 a.m.

As over 1,000 prospective freshmen (ProFros) converged on campus last weekend for Admit Weekend 2012, Stanford’s normal, unofficially liberal alcohol rules were replaced by a zero-tolerance policy on the consumption of alcohol. The more stringent regime is implemented across campus for the annual event, even in residences not hosting ProFros.


The policy is in place because of legal liabilities — since many ProFros are under 18 — but also to ensure that ProFros take advantage of Stanford’s diverse array of social opportunities without their judgment impaired by alcohol.


Stanford’s Official Student Alcohol Policy states that “Stanford students are prohibited from providing, serving or in any way making alcohol available to any prospective frosh” and that “no alcohol is to be present, served or consumed at any…function during Admit Weekend.”


This part of the Official Student Alcohol Policy was enacted in 2001 in response to alcohol-related incidents in previous years, and is enforced largely by residential staff as well as Admit Weekend student staff.


“The University looks at certain weekend periods as…high-risk periods, but also periods for which alcohol shouldn’t be the centerpiece to the social milieu,” said Ralph Castro, director of the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE), in reference to Admit Weekend and New Student Orientation (NSO).


If a student were to violate the Admit Weekend alcohol policy, it would be considered a violation of the Fundamental Standard and that student would be referred to Judicial Affairs.


Similarly, if a student organization or house were to host an event that served alcohol, that entity would be referred to the Organization Conduct Board. Potential penalties include social suspension, alcohol suspension or probation.


While the Row — the focal point of many on-campus social activities — did not host ProFros or Admit Weekend events, the zero-tolerance policy still extended to Row house residents.


Several Row houses cancelled special dinners — quarterly celebrations for most house communities, at which alcohol is normally served — and residents were prohibited from drinking in common spaces.


“I, personally, do not like the strictness of the alcohol policy over Admit Weekend,” wrote Libby Cummings ‘12, financial manager at Slavianskii Dom, in an email to The Daily. “[It] makes upperclassmen resent the admitted students for causing an alteration in the social environment on campus.”


“[ProFros] signed a contract, too,” Castro said. “They agreed to abide by all of our policies and procedures. Failure to uphold our policies and procedures could constitute a disciplinary action on their end which could include the revocation of an offer to come to Stanford.”


Castro argued for the policy on several grounds, noting that any incident involving ProFros — many of whom are minors — and alcohol could result in legal ramifications for the University as well as the concerned students and ProFros.


“Since everyone was honest and open about alcohol on campus, I didn’t feel like it was a cover-up,” said Laura Zalles, a ProFro from Palo Alto, on the rule. “I felt like it was a responsible policy since there are parents and high schoolers here.”


“It [the alcohol policy] feels like a bit of a cover-up,” dissented Jeremy Bernstein, a ProFro from the United Kingdom. “I feel like they’re pretending alcohol doesn’t exist on campus.”


None of the ProFros interviewed by The Daily had seen any alcohol on campus, nor had they seen any University students visibly intoxicated.


Castro also noted that the policy affords freshmen an unimpaired opportunity to fully experience Stanford and make appropriate value judgments.


“We have a very vibrant social scene at Stanford, but there are many other aspects other than [alcohol],” Castro said. “If students are making the decision to come here based on that, that’s not what we want.”


“If we’re asking people to really evaluate the next four or five years of their life and a major life decision, why would we provide an opportunity for them to drink and impair that decision?” Castro added.


Elodie Nierenberg ‘15, a head house host (HoHo) in Larkin, expressed support for the policy, noting that “a lot of [ProFros] haven’t been exposed to college drinking culture and it is important for them not to feel pressure or be intimidated by college life.”


Asked whether the dorm staff had had to deal with any alcohol-related incidents in the dorm this weekend, Nierenberg said, “Alcohol within the dorm wasn’t a problem, but I know there were parties on campus this weekend.”


“I think that there generally is not enough inclusion of Row houses in Admit Weekend…largely because of the fear that there would be alcohol,” wrote Jacob Boehm ‘12, community manager at Columbae.


Boehm added that Columbae had altered regular house programming in order to conform to Admit Weekend’s dry alcohol policy, saying that the policy “keeps the students focused, healthy, and out of potentially harmful situations.”


Brittni Dixon-Smith ‘11 M.S. ‘12, a resident assistant (RA) in Storey, downplayed the policy’s impact on house life.


“It happens every year — you come to expect it, and you plan for it,” Dixon-Smith said. “The issue is having ProFros involved in these environments, where they could be at risk and not be able to handle themselves.”


Dixon-Smith also noted increased supervision and guidance given to house staff from University administrators, with the intent of preventing any potential issue from emerging.


Castro said his office has never had to deal with any major violations of the Admit Weekend alcohol policy.


“For the most part, students…understand our expectations about [the policy],” Castro said.

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