Ludman approves ‘medical amnesty’

by Beacon Staff • February 18, 2009

Dean of Students Ronald Ludman released Emerson's new 'medical amnesty' alcohol policy on Feb. 18 following the approval of the college's senior administration months after the measure had been recommended by the Student Government Association.

A student who seeks assistance for an alcohol or drug-related medical emergency will not be subject to a disciplinary fine or probation, according to the policy. Parents will still be notified and the student will still be expected to meet with the Counseling Center and Wellness Educator. The 'Good Samaritan' policy will encourage friends to get treatment for rummy roommates.

"Seeking medical assistance for oneself or a fellow student demonstrates responsible student behavior," the policy reads. "When evaluating an alcohol violation the College will consider whether a student sought medical assistance for oneself or another person in need, and in most cases view the act of seeking medical assistance as good judgment and accordingly, not deserving of typical disciplinary actions."

Prior to the update, students were fined $50 for hospitalization and barred from participating in school activities.

SGA passed legislation in favor of an updated alcohol policy in late October.

"I'm very relieved and proud that the administration put students' health and safety first," said SGA President Scott Fisher. "[Disciplinary action] shouldn't be a deterrent, so I hope this policy will encourage students to seek help if they need it."

Amnesty may not apply to repeat offenders, however. The policy states that a student who is hospitalized due to an alcohol-related emergency more than once will be punished at the discretion of the Dean of Students or a designee. Students are not excused from disciplinary action if they violate the Student Code of Conduct in any other way, such as physical abuse or property damage, at the time they were intoxicated.

"It is my hope that the medical amnesty policy removes those disciplinary impediments that may have discouraged students from seeking appropriate medical assistance in the past, and in turn contributes to harm reduction for our students," Ludman said in an e-mail to iThe Beacon/i.

The policy also includes a list of signs to make students aware of alcohol poisoning. A few of these are vomiting, irregular breathing and low body temperature.

Students interviewed said they think the policy will benefit the Emerson community.

"In general, it's a good policy to have in place. There's no reason somebody should risk their life because they're afraid of getting in trouble with the college," said Nick Melo, a senior cinematography major. "To me, that is more unhealthy than the actual act of drinking."