Widgets Magazine

Drinking rules revisited

Stanford’s one-year exemption from Santa Clara County’s social host ordinance to crack down on underage drinking is up for re-evaluation by county officials later this month.

The ordinance, which went into effect in January 2009 and applies to unincorporated areas of the county such as the University, holds accountable parents and those over 21 who host parties where underage drinking occurs. The penalties are civil, not criminal, and one warning can be issued before violators are fined.

Because of Stanford’s pre-existing “extensive” program to curtail underage drinking, the University was granted a one-year exemption from the ordinance to continue efforts free from the county’s new regulation. The results of the past year will be presented to the county’s board of supervisors for evaluation at its board meeting on Jan. 26.

Stanford officials suggested that the language changes they will propose would make the exemption more permanent; the past year’s exemption, they said, was successful.
“[The current set-up] has worked very well this past year,” said Jean McCown, Stanford’s director of community relations. “Obviously we have an extensive set of alcohol policies on campus, and the original intent [of the ordinance] was already being upheld by Stanford.”

Liz Kniss, president of the county board of supervisors, whose district includes Stanford, said as much. “As far as I can say, there haven’t been any incidents that show a problem with the current exemption Stanford has from the ordinance,” she said. “We’ve worked well with them in the past, and I have faith we’ll find an agreement for the future.”

McCown said that this time, however, Stanford isn’t hoping for an extension of the exemption, but would rather have the language of the ordinance changed to accommodate Stanford’s unique situation in a more permanent way — a change she said was very “technical.”

“Our suggestion [a year ago] was for a change in the ordinance language,” she said. “[The county] found it simpler to just exempt us, but it never quite felt like the best way.”

Both McCown and Substance Abuse Prevention Program Manager Ralph Castro said the University is planning to meet with county staff to sketch out possible language changes for the next year. But supervisors say they are not sure what the outcome will be.

“It’s too early to say,” Kniss said. “Stanford is a particular aspect of dealing with this, and it needs to be dealt with as a particular segment.”

Kniss echoed McCown in emphasizing that no matter the outcome of the meeting, the goals of the county and the University are the same: to reduce underage drinking.

Stanford’s exemption was scheduled to be considered at the Dec. 15 supervisors’ meeting, but was postponed because Stanford spokespeople weren’t yet ready to present their case.

About Ellen Huet

Ellen Huet is currently a senior staff writer at The Daily; she joined the staff in fall 2008 and served one volume as managing news editor in fall and early winter of 2010-2011. Reach her at ehuet at stanford dot edu. Fan mail and sternly worded complaints are equally welcome.
  • Tom Alciere

    State Legislators’ Message To Underage Drinkers:

    1.) To prevent blood borders, the drinking age in every State has to be 21, because that’s the only integer that is equal to itself.

    2.) Drinking alcohol during pregnancy harms the baby, so we impose Prohibition on men under 21 and not on pregnant women 21 and older.

    3.) A tipsy rape victim will be arrested for internal possession if she calls the police, who are there to protect and serve.

    4.) We jail parents who are home supervising your drinking sessions in order to prevent you from holding such sessions.

    5.) A new scientific study published in the New England Journal of Medicine conclusively establishes that the politicians you voted against have a right to impose this law on you.

    6.) Statistical analysis of historical crash data proves that the United States of America ought not to be a free country, with liberty and justice for all, where the citizen decides what to drink, where parents govern their child who still lives in their house, where the punishment for drunk driving is meted out to the drunk drivers.

    7.) Freeways are more important than freedom, — especially when it’s your freedom, not ours — so we sold your freedom to get more highway construction money from Congress, (like a mother selling her daughter for cocaine money,) and we still expect you to respect this law.

    8.) The drinking age saves lives. Of course, we could save a lot more lives, maybe yours, by doing what it takes to eliminate drunk driving, but we’d have to give up driving drunk ourselves, and that’s not fair because we can drive better drunk than teenagers can sober.

    9.) A combination of driving inexperience and alcohol make you a greater danger on the road, whether you drive or not, and that gives us the right to punish you when you drink alcohol, whether you drive or not.

    10.) Don’t drive drunk? We can list some other crimes you never commit, as an excuse to deny liberty to you: murder, rape, assault…

    11.) Everybody who drinks under age is immature and irresponsible because they’re doing something that is illegal, as well it should be, because they’re so immature and irresponsible.

    12.) Liquor corporations have the nerve to advertise their products to you, and we have more respect for their First Amendment right to free speech than we have for your God-given right to drink the beverage of your choice.

    13.) We can’t stop older drunks from freely exercising their right to practice alcoholism, because they hold too much political power, but some of them started as teenagers and never had a chance to quit since then, so we punish you instead.

    14.) You shouldn’t destroy your brain while it is only 95 percent developed. You should wait until it is completely developed and then destroy it, like we did.

    15.) Even though this law is imposed on you by morons who cannot see the obvious flaws in these absurd arguments, it is embellished with a fancy seal, and a Governor years ago scribbled his autograph on it, so you have a sacred duty to obey it.

    Translated by Tom Alciere
    Webmaster, Underage Drinkers Against Drunk Driving