Time for action on alcohol amnesty motion

by Beacon Staff • February 4, 2009

ew:/b This safeguard for students has been too long coming.,bAt issue:/b Medical amnesty bill for intoxicated Emerson students.

bOur view:/b This safeguard for students has been too long coming.

It's a familiar storyline. A representative body passes practical, sensible legislation with heavy support from its constituents, but an uncooperative administration drags its feet enforcing the bill. It happens in Washington, D.C. and on Beacon Hill all the time. Now it's happening right here on Boylston Street.

Emerson's administration is delaying formal adoption of a Student Government Association-approved policy for "medical amnesty" for bibulous students. After more than three months with little movement on the motion, it's time for Dean of Students Ronald Ludman and his staff to focus on implementing medical amnesty, for safety's sake. Mid-March is too late for the drunk students who will be wandering the halls of the Little Building and Piano Row this weekend, but that's the timetable SGA President Scott Fisher's been given.

The delay also calls into question whether the Office of Housing and Residence Life, led by David Haden, will be able to implement a recently passed proposal to offer gender-neutral housing to those who want it. The SGA is on a bit of a roll, and we hope the administration takes advantage of their momentum.

Medical amnesty is designed to make dangerously drunk students, or their roommates, feel safe asking for help from their resident assistants. After being treated, the inebriants would still be required to attend mandatory alcohol counseling, but would not receive official violations or suffer dreaded parental notification. They'd be able to keep coveted spots on sports teams and other organizations. Most importantly, they wouldn't have to think twice about seeking help.

It's a sensible, safe switch from the current policy. Now, sloppy students are slapped with at least a $50 fine and official citation after even their first violation. Students who drink enough to wind up in the hospital can get a year of disciplinary probation, which threatens athletic and organizational positions. It's an unjust solution to a serious problem, and the longer it stays on the books, the greater the risk some dorm-dwelling Emersonian could be seriously hurt-or worse-for fear of incurring the wrath of the disciplinary code. This is no straw man argument either: 83 percent of students responded to an SGA survey that disciplinary action would keep them from seeking medical help in an alcohol-related emergency.

In a season of political hope and change, the administration should strive to work with a seemingly rejuvenated SGA on meaningful legislation like medical amnesty for too-drunk students. Already the clock is ticking on the SGA's recently passed gender-neutral housing proposal and, if another four months pass before that is acted upon, students will have to wait 'til next year for housing choice. In Boston, we don't take too kindly to "wait 'til next year," not no more.,iBeacon/i staff