Students Speak Out on Medical Amnesty

SGA Parliamentarian Louis Ritzinger listens to student opinion. (Photo By David Chase)

Students have brought up their concerns and opinions at the recent Medical Amnesty policy discussion forums held by the Office of Residence life and the student discussions held by the SGA.

The Medical Amnesty policy as it is currently drafted states, “When a student assists an individual who is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs in procuring medical assistance, neither the intoxicated or drugged student nor the individual who assists will be subject to formal disciplinary action by the College.”

However, the student who required medical assistance may also be required to go through certain “educational interventions,” which could include a meeting with the dean of students or associate dean of students, an alcohol or drug assessment, and/or parental notification.

The forums and discussions, held over several weeks from October through December, were intended to involve the general student body in the decision making process.

“We are in the process of compiling and making sure we understand the feedback from students, faculty, and staff,” said Dean of Students Laura Bayless. “We did two open forums last year, and seven this year, so it’s a lot of feedback to digest.”

Although the student body has generally been in support of the policy, “Some students did bring up questions, concerns and issues about the policy, and of course, many students wonder what effect the policy will have on the campus and community,” said Area Coordinator Kelly Smolinsky.

Many of those who supported the policy still questioned whether or not it would encourage people to take more risks.  “I don’t want to see students interpret it as a sign that the College is becoming more tolerant towards underage drinking and destructive behavior,” said first-year Jackie Norris.

Senior Lauren Payne and Sophomore Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall discuss the new Medical Amnesty Policy. (Photo by David Chase)

Whether or not outside groups should be involved was also discussed.  Norris, who also works as an Emergency Medical Technician, said that, “It is extremely important that Emergency Medical Services are included in the design of the policy since they will be involved in any case in which this policy may be invoked. It is important for the College to understand how the system operates, what its limits are, and what medical personnel are required to document.”

“I would say, get the Rescue Squads who respond here the most often involved. Let them know what the College is trying to do and invite them to a meeting,” she said.

Also among the concerns were whether or not some students would be able to pay for the cost of treatment, whether or not there should be a graduated system of treatment based on number of violations, as whether or not there should be unlimited amnesty for the person calling.  Students also wanted the college to acknowledge the high rate of binge drinking and offer more alcohol education.

“Student voice is valuable in this process, and I appreciate those that came out to share their point of view,” said Wellness Advocate Candace Daniels.

“We had really good conversations at each forum,” said Bayless. “The relatively small groups meant that the conversations were very rich.”

Student suggestions will be carefully considered.  “If we do in fact implement the policy, having something easy to understand will remove the debate of someone getting into trouble out of the situation. Instead of someone trying to figure out how amnesty applies by flipping open their student handbook, the idea calling for help will be a no-brainer,” said Daniels.

The administration will continue to work the students and SGA to edit the policy. Kelly Smolinsky said, “Once we’ve gathered all of the information from the forums and the student discussions through SGA…we will likely draft some changes to the policy and then pass it on to the handbook committee (which is comprised of student, faculty and staff input) for the final approval. If the policy is implemented, it would go into effect for the Fall 2009 semester.”

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