Amended alcohol policy grants amnesty to students who require emergency assistance

Julia Jacobs, Summer Editor

Students who have emergency assistance called to help them while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be officially granted amnesty from disciplinary action starting this fall under the conditions of the University’s newly revamped policy.

The administration has added a statement to what was formerly called the Responsible Action Protocol clarifying that both students who make the emergency call and those for whom the call is made will not be disciplined. Changes to the policy’s language — now called Amnesty through Responsible Action — were spurred by student and staff feedback that the rules lacked clarity, said Dean of Students Todd Adams.

“The ambiguity leads to rumors that we think are deterrents to people taking action,” said Associated Student Government president Noah Star, a rising Weinberg senior who backed the policy changes when he assumed office in April. “The only facts you should have to consider are what is the best interest of this person.”

While intoxicated students who required emergency assistance were often granted immunity in the past, the ARA standardizes the protocol and will be widely disseminated so students will not hesitate to call for assistance, Adams said.

“The goal is to ensure that anyone who needs help gets help, and that we remove any barriers to someone either seeking it for themselves or for someone else,” he said.

The new policy also clarifies that the students who require assistance will likely be asked to participate in an educational intervention program such as Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students, which includes two facilitated sessions discussing the students’ drinking habits. If students fail to do so on time, they may be subject to disciplinary action, Adams said.

In order for the caller to gain disciplinary immunity, ARA states that they must call for help, stay with the person until assistance arrives and cooperate with staff or emergency personnel. Before being granted amnesty, students must attend a meeting to determine whether they responded appropriately and committed no other policy violations.

Star said members of ASG have been pushing for clarification of this policy before he became president, but the work came to fruition at the end of Spring Quarter when the changes were announced at a dinner for student leaders. The Community Alcohol Coalition — comprised of staff, faculty and students — has been considering solutions for the past year and a half and have studied other colleges’ policies for direction, Adams said. The coalition recommended the administration add the medical amnesty clause in May.

Rising McCormick junior Wendy Roldan, ASG vice president for student life, said she was informed of instances in which a student called 911 to help their intoxicated friend and the friend was later disciplined. Roldan said that even as a peer adviser, it was difficult for her to explain to freshmen inquiring how the school would respond if, for example, someone called 911 to report a case of alcohol poisoning.

“There is a big problem when students don’t understand what the protocol is saying,” Roldan said. “Students do want to help each other — we do care — but unfortunately people weren’t participating in it because they didn’t understand the result of their actions if they were to respond.”

Administrators and students solidified the new policy language this summer so incoming freshmen could be educated during Wildcat Welcome programming, Adams said.

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