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Sunday 26 January 2020

Stanford University bans spirits at campus parties in response to Brock Turner sex attack case

Critics accuse Stanford of blaming alcohol for an epidemic of sexual assault rather than focusing on the perpetrators’ behaviour

Former Stanford student Brock Turner Photo: Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department / Handout via REUTERS
Former Stanford student Brock Turner Photo: Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department / Handout via REUTERS

Rachael Revesz

Stanford University has banned spirits from campus parties as part of a new policy to fight "high-risk behaviour" which critics argue is not the right way to tackle an epidemic of sexual assault.

It comes months after former student Brock Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a rubbish bin in January 2015 after a campus party.

The new policy goes beyond state laws and bans spirits, shots and mixed drinks at all parties except those hosted by student organisations or graduate residences.

Containers of alcohol larger than 750ml, as well as any drink stronger than 20 per cent alcohol, are also now prohibited. Any offending student would be sent to the Dean and could be removed from student housing.

Turner, a Stanford swimmer, was sentenced in June to six months in jail and three years probation, a decision that triggered international outrage and an effort to have judge Aaron Persky removed from his post.

Judge Persky claimed that a prison sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner, who was convicted of three counts of sexual assault. He instead forced Turner to get drug and alcohol treatment.

The new Stanford alcohol policy is a result of "dialogue" between students and staff since March, according to president John Hennessy about how they could change the campus alcohol culture.

Ralph Castro, director of Stanford's office of alcohol policy and education (OPAE), said: “Our intention is not a total prohibition of a substance, but rather a targeted approach that limits high-risk behaviour and has the backing of empirical studies on restricting the availability of and access to alcohol.”

Previous Stanford guidance from the OPAE warned women that "alcohol affects both sexual intent and aggression", and that women who drink are "perceived to be more sexually available". The page has been scrubbed from the website.

Critics of the policy say it is an inappropriate way to tackle a growing epidemic of sexual assault, in a country where one in five women will be raped or sexually assaulted during their time on campus.

"Sadly, Stanford appears to agree with Brock Turner that 'alcohol' and 'party culture' are to blame for his conduct," wrote Michele Dauber, the Stanford law professor leading the Judge Perksy recall movement.

She added that the policy makes students less safe by incentivising heavy drinking in private rooms rather than at parties.

In another tweet, she added: "But Stanford still has yet to apologise to the victim, offer to pay for her therapy, or even install a light over the dumpster."

Another university that bans alcohol is Brigham Young, where a victim of sexual assault was accused of "violating the honour code" for drinking beforehand.

The University of Oklahoma also banned alcohol in 2004 after a student died from drinking to excess.

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