Substance-free floors provide quiet study spaces, tight-knit communities

The freshman dorms can be an eye-opening experience for many, with students thrown into a new world of parties, alcohol and drugs. For a quieter experience, some students choose to live on substance-free floors available in the freshman towers.

Though the option may seem sheltering, residents have said that living on sub-free floors is more about forming a community of like-minded students rather than creating a more restricted environment.

While campus policies prohibit all students from possessing illegal drugs, students 21 and older may have alcohol in their rooms. On sub-free floors, students have volunteered to make an additional agreement to refrain from substances of any kind.

Sub-free floors are currently available only for first-year students. Students sign up for the program through their housing applications and are then placed on one of the eight floors available on campus, four in each Stanford and Hecht.

Mike Piacentino, marketing specialist for Housing and Residential Life (HRL), said that residents on substance-free floors follow the same policies and procedures as other resident students as set forth by the Department of Housing and Residential Life and the Students Rights and Responsibilities Handbook.

Piacentino said that there are about 38 students per floor, amounting to approximately 300 students in the sub-free program. Piacentino said that demand has grown over the years. The floors were first created because students wanted to live around people who shared a similar stance on living substance free.

“Living on a substance-free floor is a verbal commitment among residents that they will serve as a peer support system for each other,” said Piacentino. “There is no additional enforcement for substance-free floors, but these residents frequently engage in peer-to-peer accountability and conversations about ways to maintain a responsible lifestyle.”

For Johnathan Libier, a freshman living on the ninth floor of Stanford’s Rosborough Tower, choosing to live on a sub-free floor aligned with what he wanted out of his college experience and education.

“I’m more interested in academics than doing other stuff and I wanted to live in an environment where people have that same mind set,” said Libier, who is majoring in biology. “You don’t go out to party all the time; people are more focused on their studies.”

From what Libier has seen, the biggest differences for sub-free floors are on weekends and at night.

“I see a lot of people walking around, especially after the weekends when they come back, drunk or on something,” Libier said. “Their floors are usually a lot louder, a lot rowdier. It’s a lot more quiet and calm on a substance-free floor than on a non-substance free floor.”

Programming on substance-free floors also help students. First Year Fellow (FYF) programming stays generally the same, but RAs on the four floors collaborate as a program team to come up with programs that would substitute going out. Unlike other floor programs, which can have their programs any day of the week, sub-free floors have their programs Thursday to Saturday, days often considered prime partying time.

Last semester, they had one such program called The Amazing Race, where students could sign up in teams and participate in a scavenger hunt/relay race around campus at night. The program was open to students on all floors.

Dana McGeehan worked as an FYF last year on a non-sub-free floor. This is her first year working as an FYF on a sub-free floor and, based on her experience, she’d like to stay on a sub-free floor next year.

“I think the substance-free floors are more of a tight-knit community,” McGeehan said. “I think the residents kind of have the same priorities. It’s not necessarily that all substance free floors are going to be this way or all non-substance free floors are going to be the opposite. I just feel like the floor community is stronger and that’s where I thrive as an FYF so it’s nicer to work there.”