Drugs and alcohol have a presence on most college campuses, regardless of policies set by the institution, and UR is no exception. As a result, any college or university should be well-prepared to handle situations in which drugs and alcohol could harm students. It is for this reason that UR and the Standing Committee on Alcohol Policy and Education (SCAPE) should be commended for the new medical amnesty program, which is now included in the 2012-13 edition of the Standards of Student Conduct booklet.
Previously, students who violated policies pertaining to drugs and alcohol could participate in an educational course concerning the substance in question as part of a program called Second Chance. If the course was successfully completed, no indication of the incident would be documented on the student’s record. This policy, like the new medical amnesty program, was intended to reduce students’ concerns about punishment if the need for medical assistance arose.
According to the new policy, if a student calls for medical assistance related to an incident concerning drugs and alcohol involving another student, neither party will be punished for violating the University’s drugs and alcohol policy. Residential Life staff or UR Security will still be obligated to generate an incident report, however, even if medical amnesty is granted.
After the incident is reported, staff in Residential Life and the Center for Student Conflict Management will determine if it can be considered a conduct issue, a situation in which medical amnesty should be granted, or a CARE issue, also taking into account facts obtained from UR Security and witnesses to the event. In an email to students sent on Monday, Sept. 10, Dean of Students Matthew Burns explained that one of the goals of this new policy is to encourage students to seek aid when it is needed, rather than fearing punishment.
The medical amnesty program is a step in the right direction for UR. It will decrease the likelihood of students incurring unnecessary harm if they no longer feel like they have to choose between seeking medical assistance and staying out of trouble. It puts an emphasis on the well-being of students.
However, the University could have alerted students to this new policy closer to the beginning of the academic year, for although it was discussed in many hall meetings by RAs and CAs, this was not consistent within all residence halls and many students did not know about the change until Burns sent the Sept. 10 email.
With this new policy it is clear that the University’s top priority concerning drugs and alcohol on campus is student health and not simply retroactive punishment — a goal that was intended under the old policy, but which it seems UR is taking a laudable step to emphasize with this new program.