The report "shows that despite numerous efforts to reduce the harmful impact of alcohol in our community, the problem has persisted," Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole wrote in a message to students.
Her message followed an announcement in January about a new focus on the issue at Stanford.
The report draws on six years of anonymous survey data, administered to freshmen at Stanford before they started classes in August and again between September and December. (Data from the 2014-15 school year is missing, however, because a "different educational platform" was used that year, according to the report.)
In addition to the emergency-room statistic, the survey also found an alarming rise in what Stanford describes as "high-risk drinking behaviors" among freshmen, including pre-gaming and choosing a drink with more alcohol, both of which went up by more than 10 percent since 2011-12. Students also reported taking shots and chugging alcohol.
In her message to students, Brubaker-Cole also highlighted a concern about binge drinking, defined in the survey as five or more drinks in a row within a two-hour period for men and four or more drinks for women.
Binge drinking increased slightly in recent years, from 27 percent in 2011-12 to 30 percent in 2016-17 and 31 percent in 2017-18. At the same time, however, the proportion of students who had engaged in binge drinking multiple times, as opposed to once, decreased from 17 percent in 2016-17 to 15 percent last year, according to the report.
Brubaker-Cole told students that what feels like an accepted norm in college could actually be harmful for their cognitive abilities.
"On one hand, we know this occurs in college. On the other hand, all of you are working so hard to grow as individuals and prepare for your future. Consuming four drinks in a sitting for women, and five for men, on a regular basis compromises those efforts and could have long-term impacts," she wrote.
Overall, student alcohol use has gone up slightly since 2011 — 54 percent of freshmen last year who responded to the survey said that they had consumed alcohol in the prior two weeks, compared to 51 percent in 2011. This peaked at 57 percent in the 2013-14 school year.
Female students reported drinking at slightly higher rates than male students over the last three years — in the two weeks prior to taking the survey, 53 percent of women reported drinking compared to 46 percent of men in 2017-18, according to the report.
Unsurprisingly, most students' alcohol use takes place in campus residences, according to the survey results. The second most common place where students reported drinking was fraternities and sororities — which peaked at 25 percent in 2015-16 — followed by athletic events and off-campus residences (which also peaked in 2015-16, at 11 percent).
Students were also asked about their reasons for consuming alcohol. The top four reasons, according to the survey results, are to have a good time with friends, to celebrate, to feel connected to the people and to get drunk.
Students were also asked about whether they had been sexually assaulted or had sexually assaulted another person while drinking in the past two weeks. The report notes that this data is included to provide transparency but "it is critical that alcohol use and sexual violence are not conflated in ways that blame victims."
The number of students who said they had been taken advantage of sexually has remained relatively steady the last two years, following a two peak years of 14 percent from 2012 to 2014. Just over 9 percent of respondents (711 students) reported they had been taken advantage of sexually in conjunction with alcohol last year.
About 3 percent of respondents said they took advantage of another person sexually while drinking the last two years. That percentage peaked in 2012-13, when almost 10 percent of respondents said that.
Brubaker-Cole said that reinvigorating Stanford's "limited" on-campus social scene, which could be contributing to higher levels of alcohol consumption, is a priority for her office. She has engaged with more than 20 students to discuss ideas for this, including a proposal to create a student-run space designated for social gatherings and events, such as trivia nights. Students have also proposed bringing new social options to the Row (Stanford's fraternity and sorority houses), including using Mayfield Avenue at night for block parties or to host food trucks.
Cardinal Nights, which provides alcohol-free social programming at Stanford, has seen a 24 percent increase in participation over the last three years, according to the report.
Perhaps commensurate with increases in students' drinking habits, use of Stanford's free, safe rides service has shot up by more than 100 percent over the last three years, according to the report.
A working group composed of students, faculty and staff is also studying student alcohol use and will soon seek input from students, Brubaker-Cole said.
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