Stanford’s war against its own students

fortran77 | 191 points

"For the past several years, Stanford has required students to adhere to a Student Party Policy, which includes a highly detailed “Harm Reduction Plan” mandating multiple sober monitors and designated alcohol service areas, and prohibiting the serving of any hard liquor.

Party hosts must also provide “EANABs,” or Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Beverages, to “contribute to an inclusive and inviting experience” for all partygoers. Hosts are also required to take an online “Party Planning Course” before submitting their applications. "

Is this normal!?! I feel sorry for this generation. Attempts to make their world risk free has turned it into "fuck up once and we'll destroy you".

bennysonething | 3 months ago

This is such a weird article that I feel like I must not understand it. From what I can tell:

A fraternity hosted one or more parties where, by finding of fact and apparently the admission of the frat itself, they served alcohol to minors, contravening an obvious Stanford policy; as a result, they had to go through an annoying adjudication process and spend several months under the thread of a long-term suspension of the fraternity.

Contemporaneously, a student assaulted with a cup of coffee another student that she believed was himself responsible for assaulting one of her friends. Stanford began an annoying adjudication process, this time including a thread of expulsion from the school. The student committed suicide.

The latter case is, of course, a terrible tragedy. But an adjudication process doesn't seem like a disproportionate response to an assault, however minor. Stanford students are adults; transpose this setting to a workplace and there would be no adjudication at all, only an immediate termination. The story seems dead set on pinning the responsibility for the tragedy on Stanford, and Stanford may well be at fault! But it's not clear from the article how.

Meanwhile: the organizer of the frat party is less jubilant about his campus life after his frat party ran afoul of the frat party police. I feel like I have to have missed some other detail of how Stanford messed with his life, because from what I can tell, at all times in this story, he remained a Stanford student in good standing. His frat ran a risk of being prevented from hosting parties. So what?

Again: if I sound flippant here, it's likely because there is some aspect of this story that I simply don't understand.

tptacek | 3 months ago

Many US colleges/universities maintain a particular kind of legal bubble, where the surrounding city/state law enforcement largely leaves college police/security to their own devices to create an environment in which students very rarely face actual legal consequences for their misdeeds. On the whole, this is generally a good thing, in that it mitigates the worst effects of a broken national drug and alcohol policy. Local law enforcement doesn't want to have to deal with the large number of student alcohol and drug-related offenses (and especially not their parents), schools want to avoid the bad publicity of their students ending up in jail, and students definitely don't want to end up in the court system either.

That is the trade you make as a student going to a prestigious private school - you won't end up in real court unless you do something incredibly egregious, but you will have to deal with the internal disciplinary process that could (but very rarely does) expel you. If you want to be a school-sanctioned student organization, living within the legal bubble, you get to play by the rules that sustain the bubble. If you don't, live off campus and take your chances with local police.

cpgxiii | 3 months ago

I can't take the use of "war" in this headline seriously at all. Why is everything framed so threateningly? Maybe this is a bad policy, but it seems to me they want to ensure on-campus, official student organization run, parties that serve alcohol do so responsibly and provide other drinks so people don't feel like they have to drink booze. Maybe they've gone too far in another direction, but seems something Standford and its students can hash out without it being a fan for culture war bullshit.

libraryatnight | 3 months ago

How could this:

> Stanford now has more than 10,000 administrators who oversee the 7,761 undergraduate and 9,565 graduate students—almost enough for each student to have their own personal butler. (There are about 2,290 faculty members.) These bureaucrats make up an increasingly powerful segment of the university population, as they expand their portfolio and send the message that all conflict should be adjudicated by them. (OCS reports for the 2022–2023 school year have not yet been released.)

Lead to this:

> “I’m sitting in two-hour-long interviews on Zoom with lawyers who are trying to verbally and rhetorically trap people,” he said. “I had young kids that were 18, 19 years old who are international asking me, ‘Hey, can I talk to this attorney and tell them I drank a beer, or am I going to get my visa revoked?’ ”

I guess if you can't make it as a student there, you can always become an admin to bully those who put the work in to get admitted?

908B64B197 | 3 months ago

Sounds completely orthogonal to higher education.

> “If I didn’t get into Stanford, I probably wasn’t going to go to college,” he told me.

> he returned for his junior year in the fall of 2021 hoping to salvage a sense of community and camaraderie

> host a party at his fraternity, Kappa Sigma, where he was now president

Is he a student, or is he LARPing some idealised college experience he saw in a movie?

> Party hosts must also provide “EANABs,” or Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Beverages, to “contribute to an inclusive and inviting experience” for all partygoers. Hosts are also required to take an online “Party Planning Course” before submitting their applications.

Lock it down harder. Do your parties off-campus.

mrkeen | 3 months ago

As I reminisced on an earlier post about the chilling atmosphere for students at Stanford, the situation was a mite different in the 1970s. My first day there as a callow freshman from the Midwest, the cool guy next door in the dorm kindly approached me and muttered "Hey kid, you want a hit of hash?"

The one inviolable rule for university housing at the time was "no growing of pot plants in a dorm room facing the street". Otherwise, cheerful anarchism prevailed, mixed with some anti-war near mayhem. Good times, indeed.

tatrajim | 3 months ago

> “He decided not to hire an outside lawyer for his defense because he said he was confident the allegations were nothing more than misunderstandings.”

I’m not sure how you expect to be able to get a huge settlement out of Stanford with no lawyer, but best of luck to you, brother.

singleshot_ | 3 months ago

I love the covid angle thrown in for dramatic effect-- "poor students wanted the parties to get over covid blues and look how the college is punishing them!! Evil College!" My immigrant 0.02$-- if you care about building a life, being a frat president or organizing parties are optional activities. But then again, I also don't get why college football coaches are paid more than CS professors...

qintl55 | 3 months ago

> the university hired outside lawyers to step in

Cynically I think that the university spending lots on billable hours makes these types of investigations more likely to continue and grow.

It seems like universities having infinite money through their endowments lets them fund stupid projects like these investigations and a near 1:1 student to admin ratio.

This seems like something like alumni and benefactors can help by requiring some governance of this stupid pork. Or maybe federal funds will not pay for orgs that spend more on admin than teaching or research.

prepend | 3 months ago

The US has such a weird attitude towards alcohol.

In my day at Oxford every college had a bar worked by the students. I don't remember if ours was open every evening but it felt often enough.

throwaway22032 | 3 months ago

“past several years”

Umm… I went to Stanford from 2002-2006 and this policy was in place back then. Why is this news now?

zainhoda | 3 months ago

> Stanford now has more than 10,000 administrators who oversee the 7,761 undergraduate and 9,565 graduate students

Is that normal? This sounds ridiculously excessive to me. (Also, Stanford is a lot smaller than I thought.)

Amsterdam has two universities, each with 30k+ students and about 5000 employees (+/- 1000).

mcv | 3 months ago

Talk about burying the lede, the article is 4000 words deep before they mention that the draconian party requirements were implemented after an unconscious student was raped behind a dumpster at a frat party in 2015.

sharkjacobs | 3 months ago

I didn't attend Stanford, but I've been on campus a zillion times for various functions (cultural events, choir, extension classes).

It's not like most colleges. There's no big group of off-campus apartment buildings that nearly all upperclassmen live in.

Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Beverages is, without doubt, the most nanny-ish rule ever invented ("What? You only have Coke? That's not equally attractive! I'm writing you up.")

AlbertCory | 3 months ago

Image-conscious corporatization of academics is a strange spectacle, certainly. Enforcing strict behavioral norms is something large corporations are known for, and that seems to be what's going on here.

> "...only over the past decade has the school gone all-in on an ecosystem of startup-supporting programs, turning classrooms into job fairs and students into entrepreneurs-to-be, and effectively handing the keys of the campus to venture capitalists....The most important support system today is the network of people — and cash — who now populate and surround the institution, hunting for investments."

That's what students (more likely their parents) are now forking over $56K in tuition (not counting cost-of-living expenses) per year to gain access to. It certainly looks like the rise of elitist networking in the British Eton etc. school model. The recent spate of college-admission-payola scandals also point in that direction.

photochemsyn | 3 months ago

Consider this writer's observation then juxtapose the crazy incident involving the Fifth Circuit Judge protest just a few day prior to publication of this article. It seems like a tale of two very different institutions. One where the students are victimized by a ruthless bureaucracy, and the other where the students are the true menace. The only common factor is a twisted administrative state.

balozi | 3 months ago

I can understand how the "Stanford Student Party Policy" emerged and evolved (my own dorm at MIT was summarily shut down by the administration) though I do think it's a shame.

But I've attended several parties at Stanford faculty housing that were ragers, exceeding my own undergraduate memories (except no live bands). These are also on campus in the suburban faculty neighborhoods where tenured profs live. I'm even invited to one tonight that I expect will be lit (though I won't be there).

Yes, they do have "EANABs" but that's just because the hosts are grownups, and have kids so such things are table stakes.

gumby | 3 months ago

I disagree with this author’s description of Meyer.

> But in August 2020, Meyer rode her bike past a football player who she believed engaged in sexual misconduct with one of her younger teammates. Suddenly and impulsively, she spilled the coffee she was holding onto him.

Impulsively throwing coffee on someone in the name of a #MeToo rumor. It's a tragedy she killed herself, but she also shouldn't assault people. An impulsive assault is still an assault. Shame on The Free Press for not seeing this. And shame on Stanford for not letting police and courts handle this. If she gets convicted of assault, expel her. Don’t do the “kangaroo court” thing.

fortran77 | 3 months ago

Man compared to the mayhem that was student life at NTNU in Trondheim this sound awful.

christkv | 3 months ago

The exact same thing happened/is happening at Carnegie Mellon. To the school, the undergraduates are nothing but PR and legal liabilities, therefore any fun or social life must be eradicated.

exogeny | 3 months ago

This is why fraternities need to begin pulling themselves away from these institutions. There is no upside to being affiliated with a university anymore.

Vaslo | 3 months ago

I don't see what's the point of the article. It is supposed to be weird that uni bans alcohol from uni parties? At my uni being drunk was an instant expulsion without right to appeal, I don't see what's wrong with it. If you disagree, you don't have to study there.

Claude_Shannon | 3 months ago

US needs to stop treating 21 year olds like children.

bigbacaloa | 3 months ago

The article is too long. Is the headline a clickbait or is Stanford doing something against its own students?

ginger2016 | 3 months ago

Imagine committing yourself to an education institution. In tyol 2023. Lol. Lmao even.

slackfan | 3 months ago

I promise this gets back around:

I've been trying to compare the various football codes (soccer, american, gaelic, australian, etc). Mostly as a way to try to make up new codes. Get a big chart together, find permutations, viola, new game. It's going okay-ish.

However, when you start diving into this you run into where these games originated. And they mostly come out of the 'public' schools around London in the later part of the 1700s. What's amazing is that a lot of these codes are still played to this day. You can find YT videos of them, drone shots, the works.

One of the strangest ones is called the 'Eton Wall Game'[0]. The rules are pretty simple. You and 11 other 'friends' get together along a 100 meter long wall and smash into 12 of the other blokes. There's a ball too. That's pretty much it. The wiki is a bit funny when it compares it to rugby, since the Wall Game was invented 57 years beforehand.

But the culture of the Eton Wall Game (and we're coming back to the article now) is what is just bonkers (pardon the pun). The 'big game' is on Saint Andrew's Day, November 30th (and you do have to call out the Gregorian calendar now, as it's so old). Here the Collegers and Oppidans play each other for bragging rights.

An aside on UK 'public schools': These are, in US terms, very much very elite private schools. Only the richest of the rich go to these places. Like, I think every UK prime minister went to one of these few schools, many royals too. They are also, and this is important to remember, for ages 12-17 and almost exclusively male. At Eton, they all wear top hats and tails to class, as far as I can tell, every single day. They speak latin. It's like just totally wild to me here in 2023. Boris Johnson was the 'keeper' of the aforementioned Wall when he was there as a Colleger. Gives the Catholic Church a run on sticking to tradition. Also the Collegers number just 70 students, so I think just 10 in each year (not entirely certain here). Oppidans run about 1200 students, I think. But, I'm a rando from the US, so I know very little here about how things are post covid and whatnot. Etonians, please chime in.

Back to the Wall Game. I want to remind that this is a predecessor game to soccer and rugby. It's like a coelacanth of sports. The Wall itself is on a field 'controlled' by the Collegers, so they are the ones that can practice on it. Not entirely sure about how that is ... possible for 12-17 year olds, but that's the super rich for you. The poor-boy Oppidans then hop over the wall, the Collegers walk up arm in arm, they then bash each other against the wall like so many pencil erasers for 50 minutes. The game is limited to the oldest boys, so just the 16 and 17 year olds. Scoring is seemingly rare and complicated. Suffice to say, a true-blue goal in the St Andrew's Day 'big game' was last scored in 1909, like over 100 years ago. Really. Also, these 'goals are just a shed door and a tree that's starting to get old now. Like I said, a living fossil of sports.

You'd think that the Collegers having the ability stop the Oppidans from, you know, practicing, would put a damper on the Oppidans chances, right? (And now here is where we get back to the OP article). But no! Because culture.

As far as my internet research can take me, it is tradition for the Collegers to be completely hungover during the game. Sometimes they have missed the game entirely.

Hang on a second. Hungover? Yes! The night before is a huge bash for the Collegers. They all get drunk, the only adult headmastery-person in charge leaves for the night to escape the riot, and the drunken older boys then go about terrorizing the younger ones, including beatings and strippings. I don't know what the last few years of reading the news has done to you, but drunk 16+ year olds without any adult supervision (culture) that are, like, super-hazing the younger boys is not a, let's say, bright place. Yes, okay, that's a dark place. I am not saying that assaults happen (because I do not have any evidence that I could lazily find online), but come on.

As far as I can tell, this has been going on for centuries. The current heir to the throne of England and his brother both went through this particular school. Like, most of the heads of the UK government went through this system and culture, these dark places, for years during their most formative times. After this dive into a strange little game, I don't wonder about the debacle that was Brexit.

So, bringing this all back to Stanford. Look, it's one of the elite schools here in the US. The culture of this school, like it or not, really does shape the minds of the future leaders of the US and beyond. When the admins do things to these young adults, whether by malice or beneficence or accident, then that has huge effects downrange. Making all these kids into nervous purebreds sure is a lot better than St. Andrew's Eve at Eton, but it's not the best thing either.

I don't know how the pressure is going to get let out, but it's gotta happen somehow. Otherwise we end up broken leaders like the UK has.


Balgair | 3 months ago

Commissars gonna commissar. No reason to submit to people like that.

kodyo | 3 months ago


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cratermoon | 3 months ago

Pure politics, nothing technology related.

consumer451 | 3 months ago