SGA#039;s sound update to drinking code

by Beacon Staff • November 12, 2008

p>Our view: This amendment deserves the support of the administrationAt issue: SGA-passed motion to soften sanctions against drunk students seeking medical helpbr /br style="font-weight: bold;" style="font-weight: bold;"Our view: This amendment deserves the support of the administration

Emerson's policy toward unsafely intoxicated students seeking medical attention is a dangerous one.

It presents inebriated undergraduates with a decision at which even sober students would balk: choosing between their health and the student handbook's disciplinary process. Resident assistants and other alcohol policy enforcers are required to report drunk students who need emergency assistance as if they had been busted at a loud dormitory party.

For seeking help, students could be booted from a sports team or student organization or barred from attending student trips, among other things. No student, nor any student's well-meaning friend, should have to make that choice.

The Student Government Association unanimously passed an amendment to that policy, designed to make dangerously drunk students feel safe asking for help, on Oct. 28. After being treated, inebriants would still be required to attend mandatory counseling, but would not receive official violations. They'd keep coveted spots on sports teams and other organizations and would avoid parental notification. Most importantly, they wouldn't have to think twice about getting needed medical attention.

SGA President Scott Fisher will pitch the new policy to Dean of Students Ronald Ludman on Nov. 14. We urge the dean to make the SGA's proposal the official statute of the school.

Fisher, who wrote and proposed the legislation, said a student came to him after being disciplined for seeking help while drunk. His proposal is similar to policies in place at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University, among others. At many other schools, there are no repercussions for drunk students who call for medical attention, but retaining mandatory counseling is a good idea at Emerson.br /Fisher's proposal only offers amnesty for first-time offenders, but the danger does not disappear after one long night. A more perfect policy would protect students no matter how many times they need help, especially if they're receiving constant counseling.

Emerson's resident assistants, too, support the proposal, Fisher said. John Keane, an RA in Piano Row, said he supports the proposal because it will help him do his job.br /"The reason we're here as RAs is to keep people safe," he toldBeacon reporter Molly Driscoll.

The danger is real. An SGA-commissioned poll of 189 students found that 83 percent would think twice about seeking help or bringing a friend to authorities. Interviewed students told Driscoll they support the initiative.

Moreover, SGA's proposal would not provide a loophole for students caught carousing in the dormitories. The new rules would only apply to students who go looking for help. Rowdy revelers would still face the full wrath of the disciplinary process.

Students, their representatives in SGA and the RAs charged with disciplining them have made it clear: drunk or not, they rightly expect the freedom to seek medical attention without being punished.

We hope Dean Ludman agrees.