By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Stanford University has tightened campus drinking restrictions, banning large liquor bottles from undergraduate student housing and barring hard alcohol from being served altogether at parties for undergrads.

The new policy, issued on Monday in a letter to new and returning students, follows a public furor surrounding the sexual assault of an unconscious, intoxicated woman by Stanford swimmer Brock Turner outside a frat party in 2015.

Outrage over the six-month jail term Turner received in June, widely condemned as too lenient, and the victim's account of the assault and its repercussions on her life has helped galvanize concern about rape on U.S. college campuses and the role played by alcohol abuse.

It also brought a torrent of unfavorable attention to Silicon-Valley-based Stanford, which ranks as one of the nation's most prestigious private research institutions.

Stanford insisted on Tuesday that the new policy was part of long-evolving tighter alcohol restrictions that had nothing to do with Turner.

University officials pointed to a letter to students in March calling for new solutions to the "serious issue" of on-campus drinking, particularly hard alcohol. The letter cited U.S. government data that more than 1,800 college students die each year from alcohol-related incidents and nearly 100,000 fall victim to sexual violence associated with alcohol.

"It does not emanate from the Brock Turner case," university spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said on Tuesday. "Having said that, do we want to make sure that cases like Brock Turner don't happen again? Absolutely."

The new policy prohibits any liquor bottles of 750 ml or larger in any housing for its nearly 7,0000 undergraduates - even students at or above California's legal drinking age of 21. Smaller containers of hard alcohol, defined as 20 percent alcohol by volume, are still allowed.

Also newly banned is consumption of hard liquor by undergrads at all campus parties, regardless of container size or students' age.

The policy exempts graduate housing and parties hosted by campus groups consisting entirely of grad students.

The new rules drew criticism from some quarters, including Stanford law professor and sociologist Michele Landis Dauber, who called the restrictions misguided.

Dauber, who is leading a petition drive seeking to recall the judge who sentenced Turner, said rather than curb liquor consumption the policy would "change the place where it's consumed" by students.

"They're going to pound as much hard alcohol as they possibly can in a short time period before the party," she said.