The college experience differs from school to school and state to state, but one thing that remains constant in almost all places is the copious amounts of alcohol at parties. There are scenes of red Solo cups and crushed beer cans. Consuming an excess amount can lead to poor decision making and impaired judgement, a recipe for disaster. Alcohol is as ubiquitous on a college campus as students.
By now we have all heard the following story, whether it be a shared post on Facebook or a headline in the paper. Stanford freshman Brock Allen Turner, while intoxicated, raped an unconscious and unnamed student behind a dumpster near a fraternity house. What transformed this horrific incident from another sex crime to a full-blown national discussion was the sentencing and punishment that ensued.
Judge Aaron Persky, whose alma mater is Stanford University, convicted Mr. Turner of three counts of felony sexual assault. Normally, someone guilty of this offense is due to serve six years in prison, but Persky ordered a surprisingly lenient sentence for Turner. Turner was only hit with six months time in county jail with three years of probation, only serving half of his jail sentence.
What followed was a collective sense of national anger. This hot button issue was a point of contention on news stations and YouTube channels, with many people perpetuating disapproval of the sentence. Was this lenient sentencing a result of White privilege? Was it because of the dynasty between the two Cardinals? Should there be a crackdown on underage and irresponsible drinking?
While many people across the nation discussed the first couple topics, Stanford University addressed the last one. As a result of the incident, the school banned all hard alcohol from parties on campus, prohibiting beverages with over 20 percent alcohol by volume and limiting the size of the containers themselves. This new rule came a couple months after the Turner incident and although the intentions are positive, many people are questioning its effectiveness.
Stanford’s response to this troubling case was to alter its drinking regulations, as if this problem were pinned on that one issue. It fails to indict Turner or the rape culture on campus because that would tarnish the university’s image. Rape culture, by definition is where “society blame[s] victims of sexual assault and normalize[s] male sexual violence.” This mentality capsulates rape as taboo, preventing full understanding of the matter and discouraging victims from coming forward. Failing to pinpoint the root of the issue already undermines the effectiveness of the ban on hard alcohol. Furthermore, students will simply find ways around this new rule as they have time and time again. Young adults always seem to adapt to legislation and wiggle their way around it.
Preaching responsibility from the get-go will also curb these incidents of sexual assault. Giving students knowledge about drugs and alcohol will limit the severity of the consequences they suffer from using them. With the health hazards associated with drinking and the legal consequences in the back of their minds, young men should at the very least reconsider their actions.
It is nearly impossible to completely crack down on alcohol at a university, but what administrators can do is teach students how to responsibly handle themselves and be honest with the student body. With this focus on education and self-responsibility rather than senseless prohibition, there will be fewer stories like Brock Turner’s making the news.