New data released on alcohol and drug use, sexual violence and sexual harassment at Stanford

New data released on alcohol and drug use, sexual violence and sexual harassment at Stanford will help guide changes to the university’s programs, policies and services.

Stanford has released new data about sexual violence, sexual harassment, and alcohol and drug use among its student population. The information was gleaned from three sources: a campus survey on drug and alcohol use, the report from the Alcohol Solutions Group (ASG) and the Association of American Universities’ (AAU) 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct.

Provost Persis Drell said the new data will help guide changes to Stanford’s programs, services and policies to address these issues. Some of the initiatives include a new curriculum around alcohol and drugs, more support for recovery and substance-free communities and implementation of a new alcohol and drugs policy infrastructure.

“I am very disturbed by many of the findings in these survey data. The ASG report and the campus survey reveal that elevated high-risk drinking and drug use behaviors are prevalent among our undergraduate students at deeply troubling rates,” said Drell. “We know that sexual assault and sexual harassment have been serious issues on our campus, and the new AAU data give us a much clearer picture of how particular populations, such as TGQN students, graduate students and students in fraternities and sororities, are affected.”

Drell continued, “Although in the past few months our attention has been focused on coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to release these reports before the end of the academic year to honor our commitment to share information and tackle these problems. These new data, along with feedback gathered from students, faculty and staff at town hall meetings and through other campus community surveys, have increased our knowledge of the nature and extent of these serious issues and will help inform our next steps in response over the course of the coming academic year.”

The university is expected to receive soon a report from the team of national experts, which earlier this year conducted an external review of the offices within Institutional Equity & Access that provide support and response on matters of sexual violence and harassment.

“This report will provide guidance in improving Stanford’s responses to the issues of sexual violence even as we reframe our policies to be consistent with the U.S. Department of Education’s recently released new Title IX rules,” Drell added.

Alcohol and drug data

In February 2019, Stanford released the Alcohol Trends Report 2012-18, the first comprehensive data overview on alcohol use on campus. The university has now released the second annual data overview on alcohol use, as well as data concerning drug use among students. This survey was administered by Institutional Research & Data Support (IR&DS) in February and March 2019 to randomly chosen undergraduate students. A total of 1,503 students completed the survey. Key findings include:

Alcohol and drug use:

  • Of undergraduate survey respondents, during the 12 months prior to taking the survey:
    • 81 percent drank alcohol
    • 44 percent used marijuana
    • 22 percent used nicotine (including vaping)
    • 12 percent used drugs other than alcohol, marijuana and nicotine (e.g., hallucinogens, cocaine and ecstasy)
    • Of the drugs other than alcohol, marijuana and nicotine, hallucinogens are most commonly used (8 percent)

High-risk drinking behaviors:

  • Over one-third (36 percent) of all undergraduate respondents, and 50 percent of respondents who had consumed alcohol in the past 30 days, reported engaging in binge drinking one or more times during the past two weeks. Binge drinking is defined as drinking four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women and five or more drinks for men.
  • 58 percent of respondents who said they were members of a Stanford fraternity or sorority reported binge drinking one or more times in the past two weeks.
  • Nearly half (49 percent) of all undergraduate respondents and 78 percent of fraternity and sorority members reported that they had “pregamed” with alcohol one or more times in the past two weeks.

Alcohol Solutions Group

In February 2019, in response to the alcohol problems outlined in the Alcohol Trends Report, the provost launched the Alcohol Solutions Group (ASG). This group of students, faculty and staff were charged with examining the university’s culture, policies and programs relating to high-risk drinking “to advance an evidence-based public health approach to alcohol on Stanford’s campus.”

The ASG took a variety of approaches to its work, including examining data from national surveys and the annual surveys conducted by Stanford’s Office of Alcohol Policy and Education (OAPE); gathering feedback from the Stanford community via online surveys, town hall meetings and meetings with student groups and residential staff; and gleaning information from the Law School Policy Lab’s investigation of alcohol policies at other universities and analysis of policy options for Stanford.

ASG’s recommendations include changes in both programs and policies, including:

  • Developing enhanced wellness programming and substance-free housing
  • Creating an on-campus recovery program
  • Increasing student-led programs and programming space
  • Developing a comprehensive strategy for alternative/weekend programming in residences and neighborhoods
  • Enhancing residential staffing structures, such as additional Resident Assistant staffing in all-frosh houses, live-in professional staff in all Row houses and opportunities for fifth year/co-term students to apply for RA positions
  • Additional and enhanced training for Resident Fellows, RAs and other student staff

The ASG’s full report, which includes all its recommendations, can be found here.

New findings from the AAU survey

Following the release of the AAU survey results in October 2019, one of the priorities outlined by Drell was to conduct further analysis of the Stanford data to get a better understanding of the campus culture in order to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence and harassment.

“After the AAU survey came out, our students asked us to look more deeply into the impact of these issues on specific student communities that appeared to be disproportionally affected,” said Drell.

Stanford Office of Institutional Research & Decision Support (IR&DS) disaggregated Stanford’s AAU survey data in a variety of ways, including by school, degree level and particular student populations. IR&DS focused on four student populations: TGQN students (transgender women, transgender men, nonbinary/genderqueer, gender questioning or gender not listed), graduate and professional school students by degree types, athletes and members of fraternities and sororities.

In addition, IR&DS further analyzed data concerning the involvement of alcohol in incidents of sexual violence. IR&DS is also releasing additional data about where students go for support or response following an instance of sexual harassment or sexual violence and how those experiences are perceived.

Lauren Schoenthaler, senior associate vice provost for institutional access and equity, expressed concern for victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment with the release of this additional information.

“We want to emphasize that one’s choices around alcohol use and/or fraternity and sorority membership in no way make someone who suffers sexual violence at fault. The only person to blame for sexual violence is the person who perpetrates it,” she said.

Some of the key findings in Stanford’s AAU data include:

  • Graduate TGQN students were particularly at risk for sexual violence; 23.2 percent of TGQN PhD students experienced nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent since entering Stanford. This figure is higher than the 14.5 percent average for graduate and professional school students across the 33 AAU schools that participated in the survey.
  • Members of sororities and fraternities experienced disproportionately high rates of nonconsensual penetration. Fourteen percent of women who were members of a sorority experienced nonconsensual penetration by physical force or inability to consent since entering Stanford, compared to 7 percent of non-sorority women. Nine percent of fraternity men experienced nonconsensual penetration compared to 5 percent of non-fraternity men.
  • Members of sororities and fraternities were more likely than other students to intervene when witnessing a situation that might have led to a sexual assault.
  • Alcohol use was present in many incidents of sexual assault. As reported by those who had experienced sexual violence, 60 percent of perpetrators and 74 percent of victims were drinking alcohol prior to the incident.
  • Among graduate and professional school students, PhD women and PhD TGQN students experienced high rates of sexual harassment. Fifty-five percent of PhD TGQN students and 32 percent of women PhD students experienced harassing behaviors by Stanford students or employees that rose to a level that interfered with their academic or professional performance or their social environment at Stanford.

A presentation of the new data can be found here.

About the AAU survey

The Association of American Universities (AAU) released the results of its 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct in October 2019. A total of 181,752 students from 33 colleges and universities completed the survey.

The survey was administered to Stanford undergraduate and graduate students from April 9 to May 10, 2019. Sixty-two percent of all Stanford students participated in the survey. AAU partnered with Westat, a leading social science research firm, to design and administer the survey.

Next steps

In response to the recommendations in the ASG report and the data on alcohol and drug use among Stanford students, the university will seek to effect change in three broad areas: education, culture and policy.

Provost Drell will charge a group to implement change efforts in the upcoming academic year, to the extent possible given the COVID-19 situation. This group, composed of students and staff, will focus its efforts as follows:

  • Creating a revamped curriculum around alcohol and drugs
  • Requiring educational events for first-year students
  • Offering more support for recovery and substance-free communities
  • Developing new ways to address high-risk behavior among the Greek community
  • Continuing to examine the alcohol and drugs policy infrastructure

Some next steps in addressing sexual assault and sexual harassment will include implementing recommendations from the external review, changes to the Title IX process and further evaluation of the offices that assist assault victims. Earlier this spring, Institutional Equity & Access, the Confidential Support Team and the SARA Office began regular meetings with ASSU’s newly formed Student Advisory Committee on Sexual Violence and Survivor Support, which will provide input into Stanford’s policies and processes on sexual violence as well as support efforts for survivors.

Susie Brubaker-Cole, vice provost for student affairs, said, “We are deeply concerned about the health and safety of our student community. The data are sobering and represent an important call for us to change our campus culture to create a Stanford in which we can all thrive. I believe in our students, faculty and staff and our ability to come together to effect change in ways that align with our core value of care for one another. The work of the ASG provides a strong starting point.”

Brubaker-Cole said more information on next steps will be forthcoming as plans for the fall quarter take shape, noting that cultural change in these critical areas will also require focused, long-term efforts.

Members of the Stanford community are encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas on how to address these issues by using this online form.