Stanford University Risk Management Department

Party Planning Guide


When planning a party, organizers must remember that a successful event means more than providing a fun atmosphere. It means providing a safe one, too. As social hosts, you are responsible for implementing a party plan designed to promote the health and safety of your guests and to minimize risk and potential liability to you and your organization. This planning guide contains the following:
What You Need to Know about Planning a Party at Stanford

On this page:

  • Introduction
  • California State Law
  • Civil Liability
  • University Policy
  • Planning Requirements
  • Planning Recommendations
  • Planning Levels
  • Other Things You Should Know
  • Alcohol Safety
  • Resources
  • California State Law
    Stanford University is not a sanctuary from the enforcement of state and local laws. Students and others on campus who violate the law may be and have been arrested and prosecuted. Primary responsibility for law enforcement, including that related to alcohol and illegal drugs, rests with law enforcement agencies, primarily the Department of Public Safety. Uniformed officers who patrol the campus and respond to calls are deputized by the sheriff of Santa Clara County and are fully empowered and authorized to enforce all laws. Though laws are subject to change, generally, as of September, 1997, it is a criminal offense:

    1. To provide any alcoholic beverage to a person under 21.
    2. To provide any alcoholic beverage to an obviously intoxicated person.
    3. For any person under age 21 to purchase or be in possession of alcohol.
    4. To be under the influence of alcohol in a public place and unable to exercise care for one's own safety or that of others.
    5. For persons under 21 to have any container of alcohol in any public place or any place open to the public.
    6. To operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants or with a blood alcohol level of .08% or higher.
    7. To have an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle and for persons under 21 to drive a vehicle carrying alcohol.
    8. To have in one's possession or to use false evidence of age and identity to purchase alcohol.
    9. To unlawfully possess or possess for sale controlled substances specified in California's Health and Safety Code.
    10. To be in possession of an unregistered keg.
    11. To charge admission or solicit a donation where alcohol is served, unless a liquor license has been obtained from the Alcohol Beverage Control.

    Civil Liability

    While the law regarding civil liability is complex, it is important to know that under some circumstances party hosts, sponsors, bartenders, or others might be held legally liable for the consequences of serving alcohol to under-aged drinkers or to obviously intoxicated persons. As a social host or party planner you could be sued and potentially be found personally liable for damages to the injured party(ies) in three ways.

    Specific damages:
    These are damages which are measurable. For example, when bodily injury results in medical expenses or lost wages.

    General damages:
    These are damages which cannot be specifically measured in terms of dollar amounts. For example pain and suffering resulting from bodily injury.

    Punitive damages:
    These are damages which are intended to serve as an example to others and to discourage behavior which is deemed highly undesirable to society.

    University Policy
    On Controlled Substances and Alcohol
    [Adapted from "The University Policy on Controlled Substances and Alcohol," Stanford Bulletin]

    The Policy

    It is the policy of the University to maintain a drug-free workplace and campus. The unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession, and/or use of controlled substances or the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of alcohol is prohibited on the Stanford campus, in the workplace, or as part of any of the University's activities. The workplace and campus are presumed to include all Stanford premises where the activities of the University are conducted. Violation of this policy may result in disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination of employment or expulsion of students. Violations may also be referred to the appropriate authorities for prosecution.

    The University will continue to comply with all applicable state and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    Some Applications

    Student Conduct is guided by the Fundamental Standard which states the expectation that students will act in ways that demonstrate respect for order, morality, personal honor, and the rights of others. Implicit in the Standard is the understanding that students are responsible for making their own decisions and accepting the consequences of those decisions.

    In order to make informed decisions about alcohol and other drug use, students should educate themselves about the health and safety risks associated with their use, as well as about state and local laws on possessing, serving and consuming alcohol. It is widely recognized that the misuse and abuse of drugs ("controlled substances") and the abuse of alcohol are major contributions to serious health problems, as well as to social and civic concerns. Among health risks associated with the use of illicit drugs and the abuse of alcohol are various deleterious physical and mental consequences including dependency, severe disability -- even death.

    The goal of this Policy is to reduce the abuse and illegal use of alcohol and other drugs, and the human and material costs associated with it. The University, as an educational institution, approaches student conduct issues from a perspective that places emphasis on individual responsibility and development. Education about and prevention of alcohol and other drug related problems will continue to be the primary emphasis and goal. However, the University expects students, as individuals and as members of groups, to conduct themselves in accordance with this and all other University policies governing student conduct.

    No University funds, or funds collected by the University, may be used in a way which violates the Policy. In student residences, house funds (funds collected by the University) may not be used to buy alcohol that is then served to persons under the age of 21 (the legal drinking age). Therefore, because the majority of freshman are under 21, house funds for all freshmen residences should not be used to buy alcohol. In other residences, the decision to use student - collected funds or house funds to buy alcohol should be made thoughtfully, fairly, lawfully, and in a way that respects the views of the students.

    Party planners are responsible for planning and carrying out events in compliance with this Policy. At least one house or organization officer must assume responsibility for an event's compliance with the policy, and their names must be made available to Stanford's Department of Public Safety and the University upon request.

    University Consequences of Violation

    Educational and rehabilitative measures will be the preferred response to infractions of the Policy unaccompanied by more egregious misconduct. Penalties will be calibrated according to the severity of the violation. Misbehavior associated with drug or alcohol use and abuse may constitute one or more of the following consequences:

    • Individuals who violate the University Residence Agreement may lose their University student housing privileges.
    • Individuals who violate the University's terms and conditions for student organization recognition (as defined in the Student Organization Handbook) maybe subject to expulsion from the student organization.
    • Student groups which violate the Alcohol Policy may face suspension of social privileges as well as loss of University recognition, meeting space, and housing or other related privileges.
    • Individual students who violate the Fundamental Standard may be subject to the University's Student Judicial Process.

    Students should understand that inebriation is never an excuse for misconduct-- that the careless or willful reduction, through the use of alcohol or other intoxicants, of their own ability to think clearly, exercise good judgment, and respond to rational intervention may invoke more stringent penalties than otherwise might be levied. Penalties are imposed according to the facts and circumstances of each case. They can be imposed singly or in combination by the Office of Residential Education/Graduate Residences, the Office of Student Activities, the Dean of Students Office, and the Office of Judicial Affairs.

    Parties at Stanford

    Stanford recognizes that student parties are an important part of campus life. The information provided here is intended to help you to minimize the risks associated with sponsoring a party, and to help you and your organization plan and execute safe, healthy, problem free and fun events.

    Why else should you follow the guidelines? If a problem occurs at your party that would be cause for disciplinary action, the University will take into account whether or not you have tried your best to comply with these guidelines. If you have done everything you can to follow the guidelines, you may thereby reduce the likelihood that you or your organization will be held liable and subject to University sanctions.

    As a party planner, you are asked to consult with the Office of Student Activities prior to your party so that its staff can work with you. Early consultation allows staff to most effectively assist you in anticipating potential problems and making contingency plans to avoid them. Graduate groups planning events in their professional schools are asked to notify their appropriate school contact; hosts scheduling events occurring in graduate residences should consult with the Director of Graduate Residences.

    Planning Requirements

    In all cases, the host (defined as an individual or sponsoring group):

    1. Must comply with all University policies including those on alcohol and other drugs, firearms, noise and fire safety, and should know and understand the University party planning recommendations.

    2. Must attend a party planning workshop (sponsored by the Office of Student Activities) for levels 2-5 parties.

    3. Must have all plans for off-campus advertising (including flyers, invitations, radio or other media ads) reviewed by the Office of Student of Activities prior to any advertising

      Party Planning Recommendations

      For all Parties (Levels 1 - 5)

      In all cases it is recommended that the "host" (defined as an individual or sponsoring group):

      • Should implement plans to check ID's, so that all attendees consuming alcohol are at least 21 years of age.
      • Should implement plans so that obviously intoxicated individuals are not served alcohol.
      • Should not promote alcohol as the focus of the event.
      • Should provide an adequate supply of quality EANABS (equally attractive non-alcoholic beverages) throughout the duration of the party.
      • Should develop and implement a crowd management plan for party-goers both inside and immediately outside the party space.
      • Should be prepared to assume responsibility for damages associated with the event inside or immediately outside the party space.
      Level 1: Private Event by Individual Host

      Definition: A gathering in an individual's private room or suite in a residence hall which must be fully contained in the room of the host.

      If alcohol served:

      • No flyers or other publicity is permitted (individual invitations are acceptable).
      • Any University funding of the event is prohibited.

      Level 2: Members Only

      Definition: A closed party or date function (1 guest per member) in a residence hall, Greek house or other University space limited to residents, or members only.

      For all events:

      • Attendance is limited to group membership.
      • No flyers or other publicity is permitted outside an individual residence or student organization (individual invitations are acceptable).
      • One security monitor must be provided for every 50 guests throughout the event (volunteer security monitors are acceptable, but must remain sober).

      If alcohol is served:

      • The host must provide personnel for all service of alcohol; self service is prohibited.
      • Servers of alcohol must be 21 years of age or older; and must remain sober.
      • Security expectations will be determined, in advance, in consultation with the Office of Student Activities and Stanford Police, as appropriate.
      • The Office of Student Activities and Stanford Police should be notified at least 48 hours in advance of the party, indicating day, time and location. For details, see the OSA Party Planning web site.

      Level 3: A Party Open to Stanford Students

      Definition: A party that is open to Stanford students and alumni; with limited off-campus guests.

      For all events:

      • Stanford ID required.
      • Any guest must be accompanied by a Stanford student.
      • Flyers and other publicity is only permitted on campus and must state all entrance requirements.
      • One security monitor must be provided for every 50 guests throughout the event (volunteer security monitors are acceptable, but must remain sober).
      • The host must have a plan for controlling the crowd in and outside the event.

      If alcohol is served:

      • The host must provide personnel for all service of alcohol; self service is prohibited.
      • Servers of alcohol must be 21 years of age or older; and must remain sober.
      • All party-goers who consume alcohol must be identified as being of legal drinking age through use of wristbands.
      • No hard alcohol is permitted.
      • Security expectations will be determined, in advance, in consultation with the Office of Student Activities and Stanford Police, as appropriate.
      • The Office of Student Activities and the Stanford Police must be notified at least 14 days prior to the event using a standard report form. For details, see the OSA Party Planning web site.

      Level 4: A party open to Stanford students and includes targeted off-campus guests.

      Definition: A party that is open to Stanford students and includes targeted off-campus guests.

      For all events:

      • College ID required.
      • Flyers and other publicity is permitted off campus, but must state all entrance requirements. Off campus radio or ad advertising is not permitted. All advertising content and distribution should be determined in consultation with the Office of Student Activities.
      • One security monitor must be provided for every 50 guests throughout the event (volunteer security monitors are acceptable, but must remain sober).
      • Additional security expectations will be established after consultation with the Office of Student Activities and Stanford Police and will be determined by the nature of the event and the type of facility, at least 14 days prior to the event.
      • The host must have a plan for controlling the crowd in and outside the event.

      If alcohol is served:

      • The host must provide personnel for all service of alcohol; self service is prohibited.
      • Servers of alcohol must be 21 years of age or older; and must remain sober.
      • All party-goers who consume alcohol must be identified as being of legal drinking age through use of wristbands.
      • No hard alcohol is permitted.
      • The Office of Student Activities and the Stanford Police must be notified at least 14 days prior to the event using a standard report form.

      Level 5: Off Campus Parties

      Definition: Parties sponsored by Stanford student organizations, but held at off-campus sites.

      If alcohol is served:

      • The host takes responsibility for implementing steps, or obtaining a responsible establishment to take steps, so that all participants consuming alcohol are of the legal drinking age.
      • The host should take steps to encourage safe driving practices to and from the party. Standard alcohol service practices must be followed on public transportation.

      Occasional exceptions to certain of these guidelines may be possible with prior written approval of the Office of Student Activities.

      Other Things You Should Know


      Decide as a Group What Type of Party You Want: Determine the cost, if alcohol will be served, and if the party will be open or closed. These decisions are best made by the entire group as opposed to one or two select individuals.

      Have A Party Plan: This contains the details regarding how you will manage the party. It also will serve as a record to help future party hosts plan their events.
      Identify Your Party Level: (See previous party level section)

      Pick A Date: Confirm with OSA that your party does not conflict with holidays, major campus events, or another event in the party site.

      Create A Timeline: Set firm deadlines for your planning such as reserving space, completing paperwork and putting up flyers.

      Find A Location: Use the list included in this brochure to help you find a location for your event. Be sure to promptly complete all paperwork required to reserve that space.

      Create A Budget: Include both income* and expenses, as well as the costs of advertising, the facility (deposit, rental and cleaning), entertainment, security services, decorations, food and beverages, contingency (10% for damages, lost deposit, etc.).

      Create A Theme: This helps determine the types of music, food, games, activities and beverages you might choose. If you are planning a party with a cultural theme it is important that it be respectful of that culture. The focus of the event should not be alcohol.

      Decorations: Decorations should reflect your theme. Any construction, especially if it alters entrances and exits, is discouraged. Flammable material such as hay, large paper panels, sheets, tree branches and foliage should not be used as decorations unless properly treated with a flame retardant. Do not cut tree branches or other foliage without prior permission! If you plan to have decorations or do construction, contact the Campus Fire Marshal, 723-0448, at least a week in advance.

      Offer EANABS (Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Beverages): Be creative! Have someone mixing tasty non-alcoholic beverages instead of just serving soda. Make sure alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are served in the same location.

      Advertising: If you advertise your event, avoid mentioning alcohol. List all entrance requirements so that attendees know what to expect before they come to your party.

      Noise: For indoor events, open only the windows and doors that face away from neighbors who are likely to be disturbed by noise. If you are planning an outdoor event extra care should be taken so that your noise does not disturb your neighbors both on campus and off-campus (you would be surprised how far noise can carry!) Notify your nearby neighbors about any planned outdoor event. Local noise ordinances restrict noise after 11 p.m. on week-nights (Sunday through Thursday) and 1 a.m. on weekends (Friday and Saturday). You are expected to comply with these restrictions.

      *Remember: by law, you cannot charge admission if you are serving alcohol unless you obtain an alcohol license in advance. Contact the Office Student Activities for more information, 723-2733.


      Serve Food: Good food can make your party great! Encourage guests to eat, especially if they are drinking alcohol. Offer high protein foods that retard the rate of alcohol absorption into the blood. Avoid salty foods that encourage beverage consumption. Place the food near the beverages and make sure there is an ample supply to last throughout the event.

      Promote Responsibility in Regard To Drinking: Do not allow drinking games. Avoid hard liquor. Shots of any kind (including Jell-o) are not acceptable. Only trained, sober servers should monitor and serve alcoholic beverages.

      Limit Alcohol Amounts: Do not serve a person more than one alcoholic beverage at a time. To monitor quantity, use 12 ounce rather than 16 ounce cups for service and do not allow attendees to bring their own cups. Do not allow individuals to bring their own alcohol unless the party format is a "Bring Your Own Beverage (BYOB)." You should not allow attendees to serve themselves. Stop serving one hour before the party is officially over and bring out some tasty EANABs at that time.

      Comply With Laws and Regulations. Every organization member and guest is assumed to be aware of all applicable University, local, state, and federal laws and regulations regarding the possession, use, sale, consumption and service of alcoholic beverages. You are encouraged to post a sign stating that it is illegal for those under 21 to possess or consume alcoholic beverages at least in any areas used for alcohol distribution.

      Don't Serve Minors: Check for valid identification of age and mark in a clear and unambiguous manner that cannot be reproduced (e.g. wristbands) those attendees who are of legal drinking age. Methods of identification using ink, such as hand stamps or markers, are strongly discouraged because they are less visible and easily duplicated.

      Identify Intoxicated Individuals: Immediately stop serving them alcohol! Offer them EANABs and/or an escort home. If a person passes out due to intoxication, more serious medical attention may be necessary. If breathing is labored or if the person can't be roused, immediately call 9-911 from any campus phone. Never just put an individual to bed and leave, or drive that person to the hospital! Instead seek help from someone in the University (see alcohol safety section).

      Injuries and Emergencies: For minor injuries, immediately take the individual to the Cowell Health Center or the Stanford Hospital. If the injury appears to be more serious, such as neck or back injuries, immediately call 9-911. If in doubt, call 9-911! After emergency assistance has been called, notify the Resident Assistant (RA) and/or Residence Fellow (RF). All injuries should be reported to Risk Management, 723-4554.


      Cleanup: Make sure you have an adequate crew for cleanup (plan for greater numbers than you need). Clean the areas inside and outside the party area, immediately after it's over.

      Check for Facility Damages: Do a walk-through of the party area immediately after the event both inside and outside and note any possible damages. If the facility is not yours, notify the "landlord" of any problems and resolve any potential damages within 48 hours of the event.

      Injuries and Emergencies: If injuries occur, report them to the appropriate University entity. Residential parties should be reported to the Office of Residential Education; fraternity, sorority and student organization parties to the OSA. All injuries should be reported to Risk Management, 723-4554.

      Evaluate and Revise Your Party Plan: After the party do an evaluation of your party and make any notes on changes you wish to incorporate in planning future events. Document and pass on to future social chairs or other organization leadership.

      Alcohol Safety

      Buying Guide for Parties
      An easy way of reducing the risk of having alcohol related problems at your party is to simply reduce the amount of alcohol available to your guests. For planning purposes assume:

      • You're planning a four hour party
      • You won't be serving any alcohol during the last hour of the party ("cool down time")
      • You're expecting 100 guests, with 75% drinking alcoholic beverages and 25% drinking non alcoholic beverages
      • You'll be serving three to four drinks per person, maximum

      • A maximum of 1.5 kegs of beer will serve 75 people all evening (approximately 240 ten oz. cups)
      • Have available a MINIMUM of 33 two-liter bottles or 30 six packs of EANABS (equally attractive non-alcoholic beverages)

      Signs of Intoxication

      • Acting aggressively or belligerently
      • Moving slowly
      • Talking or laughing loudly
      • Stumbling, bumping into things, falling down
      • Rambling or irrational speech
      • Slurring words
      • Laughing at jokes that aren't funny
      • Spilling drinks
      • Looking for trouble, complaining
      • Swaying
      • Talking loudly, then very softly
      • Having difficulty finding mouth with glass
      • Avoiding eye contact, difficulty focusing
      • Responding slowly to questions

      Managing High Risk Guests
      Dos...Don 'ts...
      Be friendly, considerate and firm Be an authoritarian, angry or obnoxious
      Be assertive and not judgmental Back down or change your mind
      Make sure you have others close by for support Hesitate to call the police for help (they can remove disruptive guests)
      Refer to your organizations social policy Take statements personally or get into a shouting match
      Utilize the guest's friends as your allies Touch anyone without good reason -- if a person attacks you, use only enough force to restrain the person.
      Offer guests an alternative to drinking alcohol -- this will allow the guest to "save face" and feel in control. Try to be a hero or "wanna-be" cop
      Be aware of possible aggression -- try to get the person away from the crowd and distracted from possible sources of anger. Embarrass the guest-- guests observing the situation may feel a need to intervene or retaliate.

      Responding to Alcohol Emergencies
      There is no way to sober someone up quickly. It takes about as many hours to sober up as the number of drinks consumed. Here are some first aid procedures to use when people have had too much to drink:

      • If the person passes out but can be roused, immediately notify the RA or RF. Someone should stay with the person, monitoring his or her breathing at regular intervals. Make sure that the person is sleeping on his or her side with knees bent, to prevent choking in case of vomiting.

      • If the person passes out but cannot be roused, or if respiration slows to 6-7 breaths a minute, call 911 (off campus) or 9-911 (on campus) immediately.

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    © 1998 Stanford University. All Rights Reserved; Questions/comments/suggestions to Risk Management.
    Last modified: Tuesday, 06-Aug-2013 18:15:16 PDT
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