A letter to President Hennessy on the alcohol ban

April 18, 2016, 11:59 p.m.

Dear President Hennessy and Provost Etchemendy,

I write to you today because you are worried about your students. To be honest, so am I. When I watch my friends take a few shots and then go into five rounds of beer pong, and when you see freshman dorms with transport numbers going up, not down, anyone might be tempted to consider an alcohol ban. But the difference is that, while you’re up at night looking at the transport statistics and searching for a way to make the numbers look better next year, I’m up at night sitting on a cold bathroom floor, holding my friend’s hair back while she throws up after that last tequila shot. As somebody who lived in a freshman dorm with a reputation for partying, joined the Greek life party scene, and started dating an athlete on a party-crazed team, I have experienced Stanford’s alcohol culture up close from almost every angle. While there are aspects of this world that I gladly participate in, my experiences also let me share what it’s like not to analyze this world, but to live in it. The student body has been loud and clear with its opposition to this alcohol ban — which can easily come off as a desperate plea from college students to leave us and our drinking habits alone. But, as one who deals with the consequences of this culture every day, I come to you with a more urgent plea: Help me take care of my friends.

During my time at Stanford thus far, you have taught me to never be afraid of asking for help. When I fail a midterm, I turn to my professors. When I have no clue how to pick a major, I turn to my advisors. But when my friend is lying on the bathroom floor throwing up from alcohol poisoning, I can only turn to you.

I turn to you by looking to my RAs, RFs, Residence Deans, and even Stanford Police with confidence instead of fear. This year, when one of my freshman friends came to a party of upperclassmen and ended up throwing up in the bushes outside after one too many shots and beer pong wins, one of his hands was gripping my shoulder and the other was gripping the RA. When the Stanford Police pulled up to determine if medical help was needed, everyone at the party was suddenly very aware of their red cups and lack of ID. But, this year, I gladly turned to our police, despite the fact that my own red cup was in line with the rest. I gave them critical information about the length of the party and my friend’s alcohol consumption knowing neither of us would be punished because we took one of those shots together. This year, when I turned to you, you helped me take care of my friend.  

But with this hard alcohol ban, you aren’t offering me the safety of a campus free from hard alcohol. Instead you’re telling me that next year, instead of calling my RA for help, I’ll be pushing my friend inside so the RA won’t punish him. I’ll be playing a “game” I learned at a state university: Get drunk before the handle gets confiscated. And, most terrifyingly, I’ll be on the bathroom floor holding a stranger’s hair back, having dialed 9-1-1, too afraid to push call.

I know this because I have experienced firsthand the alcohol culture of a “dry” campus. A place where no alcohol is allowed, especially in residence halls. A place where the RAs in campus residences enforce this policy at the expense of close, trusting relationships with their residents. While visiting the “dry” campus of my home state university over spring break, my friends and I squeezed into a sedan on a Friday night and drove a few blocks away with our handle of vodka. As we got out, nobody else seemed concerned that the driver had his car keys in one hand and a shot glass in the other. When we entered the party in an off-campus apartment, I watched as my peers’ shot glasses were immediately filled, drunk, filled, and drunk again and again. Even with the blaring music and dim lighting, it was easy to learn their game: Get drunk before the cops shut us down. Surely enough, within an hour the cops were outside. The music was shut off, the guests were silenced, and the hosts went to deal with the police about the noise complaint. I stood terrified in a corner, but my friends assured me that hiding their alcohol consumption from authorities was an art practically perfected by every freshman within the first months of school. Like they anticipated, ten minutes later the police were gone, the music was turned back up, and the shots were being poured once again. A “dry” campus is nothing to emulate.

Thankfully, in my time here, you have taken a different approach. You have recognized that education extends far past the classroom. You have taught me to be a successful student, but, more importantly, you have allowed me to be a caring friend, a supportive dorm-mate, and a compassionate stranger. As a Stanford community, we see each other at our best and at our worst. We love one another. And we take care of one another.

Thus far in my Stanford career, you have never given me a reason to doubt that when I needed you, you would be there. But now, with even the consideration of an alcohol ban, you have made me start doubting. So, what I ask of you is simple: You have taught me to take care of my friends. Now, follow through and help me do it.


Your Concerned Student

Class of 2018

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