In an effort to reduce “the high risk of the rapid consumption of hard alcohol,” Stanford University on Monday announced a ban on liquors 40 proof or higher from undergrad parties on campus, while also prohibiting undergrads from having hard-alcohol containers that are 750 milliliters or larger in student residences. One reader suspects that Stanford is just trying to cover its own tail:
This new policy will accomplish virtually nothing. It’s merely a liability reduction program for Stanford. Kids will continue to get shit-faced and young women will continue to be raped, but merely off campus, where Stanford has no jurisdiction, responsibility, or liability.
Another reader agrees, calling the policy “stupid and unenforceable”—and he speaks from experience:
My college banned hard liquor entirely on campus, and it never really stopped anyone. That was at a very small school (1,800-2,000 students) where the chance of enforcement was much higher. [Stanford has about 7,000 undergrads.] Sure, every now and then they’d confiscate some things after searching the dorms, but not enough to make any difference I ever noticed.
This next reader, on the other hand, applauds the move from Stanford:
On a dispassionate examination of the variety of factors related to sexual assaults on campus, the primacy of alcohol as a contributing factor cannot be overstated. If this policy is indeed a response to the sexual assault situation (and there are numerous other benefits to reducing the prevalence of consumption of hard liquor on campus), then it should be praised for being a bloody obvious thing to do.
Another reader broaches the context that many believe drove this decision:
I doubt whether this Stanford policy will be very effective at curbing binge drinking among students, but I suppose it probably won’t hurt too much to try. I am looking at it as a general attempt to reduce dangerous binge drinking, rather than as a direct, or particular, response to Brock Turner’s crime. Otherwise it does, indeed, begin to stink of an attempt to cast alcohol as a substance that inspires heinous criminal behavior in and of itself.
All that aside, I understand that “sexual assault” is sometimes a useful euphemism, especially in this age of safe spaces and trigger warnings, but I don’t think we should mince words in this case: Brock Turner raped an unconscious woman. He raped her. It was rape. I believe it’s wrong to neuter the language we use to talk about horrible things like this. It’s important to use plain, unpalatable, uncomfortable terms when discussing the bad things people do, or we risk finding ourselves in a quagmire of waffling equivocations down the line.
Brock Turner, as you probably recall, is the Stanford swimmer who was convicted in June of sexual assault (and using that term isn’t equivocating here; he was specifically convicted of “assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman, sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object, and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object,” since prosecutors had dropped the “rape” charges months earlier.) Those foul crimes resulted in just a six-month jail term that effectively ends on September 2—his expected release date—despite a powerful letter read by the rape victim during his sentencing hearing. Turner’s light sentencing set off a firestorm of controversy, including a campaign to recall the judge in the case.
Instead of debating the case, we convened a reader discussion about how parents can talk to their children—from a very young age to their teen years—about rape and sexual assault. To continue that thread, here’s Renie, a long-time reader and mother of two daughters:
I think that most of your readers’ comments about teaching children about their bodies and their right to keep their bodies safe from unwanted behaviors from others are fine for younger children. I think that most of us have been doing a good job with younger children.
But when it comes to teens and young adults, I think we are still tiptoeing around the elephant in the room: booze.