An increasing number of schools are granting amnesty to students who report friends’ or their own alcohol-related emergencies. The official pardon, known at some colleges and universities as the Good Samaritan Policy, aims to ensure students don’t hesitate or avoid calling for medical help for fear of being cited for underage drinking or on-campus alcohol possession.
As a Keene State College student who helped craft his school’s policy confirmed, “It’s all too common for students to try and sleep off an alcohol overdose just because they don’t want the hassle of getting the police involved or hospital bills. You should call 911 if you feel that your friend is in danger, no matter what. But this policy just makes it so that students won’t have to worry about getting in trouble for doing the right thing.”
Students’ and administrators’ ramped-up efforts in recent semesters to adopt versions of the policy are partially a response to the prevalence of student drinking ailments and deaths on campuses nationwide.
As The Michigan Tech Lode, the student newspaper at Michigan Technological University, noted in a recent round-up on alcohol problems, “Approximately half of all full-time college undergraduate students report abusing alcohol at least once a month…nearly 50 students die a year from too much alcohol consumption and over 1,800 students die a year from alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes.”
In most cases, amnesty only applies to students who contact recognized authorities to report legitimate emergencies. Additionally, on some campuses, if the student callers are found to have violated drinking laws or school rules, they may be required to attend counseling sessions or participate in alcohol education courses. And, in general, amnesty does not extend to repeat callers.
Yet, even with those restrictions, concerns exist about whether the policy is “encouraging students to increase high-risk drinking behaviors.”
Simply put, by granting a small slice of students a get-out-of-trouble card, are schools implicitly stating that it’s okay to drink to excess or engage in dangerous alcohol-fueled activities?
In response, Samaritan supporters argue the policy in no way advocates poor judgment or bad behavior. But it does recognize that students drink. And in very limited circumstances, it prioritizes student health over “pre-prescribed punishment.” Ultimately, during a genuine crisis, the goal is to compel students to call campus safety, their RA or 911, no matter the state they are in or what they have been doing.
“Underage drinking is something that happens at all universities and students need to be safe while they’re doing it,” said a student government representative at the University of Central Florida, where an alcohol emergency policy was recently implemented. “Research shows students are more likely to call 911 when they’re not likely to get in trouble.”
What do you think? Is the Good Samaritan Policy a positive step toward a safer campus drinking culture? Or is it a loophole that may lead more students to drink illegally or irresponsibly?
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