Medical amnesty policy reevaluated

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April 12, 2012

11:31 PM

Medical amnesty policies have been adopted widely at universities across the country, including the College of William and Mary. The annual review of College policy has produced a proposal seeking to increase the policy’s reach.

The current medical amnesty policy allows students to seek medical assistance for fellow students or themselves without fear of repercussion with alcohol or drug violations from the College administration. Student Handbook explains that while the policy does not preclude the Dean of Students from pursuing violations of the code of conduct and does not prevent the College police from taking action, its intent is to promote campus safety and encourage students to seek help when it is needed.

Vice President of Student Affairs Virginia Ambler ’88 Ph.D. ’06 released proposed changes to the Student Code of Conduct in an email to the student body April 11, and one of the six proposed changes alter the current medical amnesty policy.

The proposal consisted of three major changes: clarity of the policy within the code itself, protection for organizations hosting events, and inclusion of the policy on a student’s record for a shorter period of time.

In order to change the code, the Student Assembly submitted its proposal to Dean of Students Patricia Volpe. Ambler then receives suggestions from Volpe and the student body before making final recommendations to College President Taylor Reveley.

SA Secretary of Student Rights Zann Isacson ’13 and Sen. Dallen McNerney ’14 submitted the changes to Volp on behalf of the SA.

Isacson believes organizations are an integral part of student life and should be protected under the policy in the same way individuals are.

“Considering how much an organization contributes to fostering a community within our school environment, efforts by an organization to foster retention and a family atmosphere should be encouraged,” Isacson said.

Those who seek organizational protection under the medical amnesty policy are pushing back against the part of the policy that, according to the Student Handbook, leaves the organization open to violations when medical amnesty is sought for an intoxicated person attending the organization’s event.

“In circumstances where an organization is found to be hosting an event where medical assistance is sought for an intoxicated guest, the organization (depending upon the circumstances) may be held responsible for violations of the Alcohol Policy or Drug Policy,” the Student Handbook reads.

Within the existing policy, there are some ways that organizations can still redeem themselves.

“However, the organization’s willingness to seek medical assistance for a member or guest will be viewed as a mitigating factor in determining a sanction for any violations of the Alcohol Policy or Drug Policy,” the Student Handbook reads.

Volp did not agree that organizations should be included under protection of the code.

“The current policy already provides an adequate amount of support to an organization to do the right thing because the current policy says the organization’s willingness to seek medical assistance will be viewed as a mitigating factor in determining a sanction for violations,” Volp said. “I believe the current policy provides a sufficient balance between responsibility and mitigation and does not necessitate further changes.”

However, Volp agreed with the SA’s proposal to clarify the medical amnesty policy and to shorten the period of time the use of medical amnesty appears on a student’s record to one year. This information appears on a student’s College record only, instead of a criminal record. The incident could appear on an application for an on-campus job.

The proposal to clarify the code results from past student confusion about whether they can seek assistance without being punished.

“[The current policy] makes it difficult for students when they are deciding whether or not to make the call because they aren’t sure if they will be charged,” Isacson said. “This is a situation we never want students to be in. You should always make the call if someone’s life is at risk.”

Ambler will submit her suggestions to Reveley over the summer after taking into consideration Volp’s response, student comments and SA recommendations on the policies.

“The Dean of Students Office forwards recommendations to me, and then they are put out for student comment,” Ambler said. “Nothing is final until I make recommendations to President Reveley and he approves them over the summer. Lots of people have an opportunity to make comments.”

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Ellie Kaufman

Senior staff writer Ellie Kaufman '13 is an English major from Herndon, Va. She was previously Chief Staff Writer, Variety Editor and Associate Variety Editor.