With Senate support, medical amnesty push moves ahead

The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate at its meeting on Feb. 24 unanimously approved a project to push for the addition of clauses to the universitys alcohol policy eliminating university judicial consequences for students who receive treatment from Tufts Emergency Medical Services (TEMS) for intoxication and for those who call TEMS.

The proposed Good Samaritan and Medical Amnesty clauses were submitted by Latino Center Community Representative Marcy Regalado, who said she intends with the project to reform the policy to bring it up to date.

[Tufts] alcohol culture as a whole needs to get a blast of education, and I feel that with the policy having this Good Samaritan and Medical Amnesty clause added in, itll give a lot of leeway to having that education, Regalado, a sophomore, said, noting that institutions like Cornell University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University have successfully implemented Good Samaritan policies.

Tufts current alcohol policy, which last underwent major revision in 2011, states that first-time offenders will receive a warning instead of automatically being put on Disciplinary Probation One (pro-one), according to Director of Alcohol and Health Education Ian Wong.

Students who fail to meet with Wong and Judicial Affairs Officer Veronica Carter within two weeks of the incident will be placed on pro-one.

Wong said this policy reflects leniency in the system that is complicated by a matter of wording.

We really do have an amnesty policy, he said. I just dont like the term amnesty because amnesty always sounds like nothings ever going happen that its a clean slate. Thats not the case of typical policies that allow for amnesty, he said.

The other schools [with amnesty policies] are tracking you too. Were just being a little bit more honest. In reality, the technical term for what we do is diversion.

Multiple offenses can result in a mandatory yearlong medical leave from Tufts, which students often mistake for suspension or expulsion, Wong said.

No one gets suspended or expelled for their alcohol use, but they could [be suspended] for their behavior while theyre drinking, he said.

Regalado said that the Good Samaritan and Medical Amnesty clauses would not shield students from disciplinary repercussions for other violations committed while intoxicated, such as property damage and disorderly conduct.

If you are under the influence and you broke a window, you wont get in trouble for the drinking part, but youll still get in trouble for the breaking a window portion, she said.

Relgado added that the current policy is too severe for offenders who may be educated about alcohol abuse but get into trouble due to bad luck.

If its people that forget to count one or two times throughout the school year, and they have the unfortunate event of getting TEMSed, but theyre educated [about alcohol use], I dont think its fair for someone to get in trouble for that, she said.

Wong emphasized that the current warning system helps the school recognize if a student has a substance abuse disorder that must be treated.

How do you look at a parent and say, We knew this happened before, but everyone gets a free try the first time, and unfortunately the second time your daughter didnt make it? he said.

If we know all this stuff, we need to do something to help those people with a problem, Wong added.

The university is open to hearing students proposals for medical amnesty proposals if the policy meets federal and state guidelines and adheres to the goal of lowering the binge drinking rate on campus, Wong said.

We would consider anything, he said. The big thing were looking at is how to reduce the rates of binge drinking and how to help people with substance abuse disorder.

A student group called Medical Amnesty Policy at Tufts (MAPAT), an offshoot of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), has also been advocating for implementation of such a policy.

The group last month sent out an online survey to gauge student interest in medical amnesty, according to MAPAT leader and SSDP secretary Carolyn Flax.

The survey has received 567 responses as of press time, Flax said, with 93.55 percent of respondents in support of a medical amnesty policy and 94.21 percent answering that they would be more likely to call TEMS for alcohol-related issues if such a policy existed.

All were looking to change is that we want to take the disciplinary probation side out of the equation, Flax, a sophomore, said.

Other than that, we really want to educate people about the policy and the symptoms of alcohol poisoning.

MAPAT members last Friday met with the administration to present the results of the survey and explore medical amnesty as an option, Flax said.

The ideal policy would still require students to meet with Wong for an alcohol screening after each offense, but would eliminate disciplinary probation as a punishment unless the student does not attend the meeting, she explained.

Theyre receptive and they want to do what we want as long as its not a ridiculous quest, Flax said. Theres this whole imagined dichotomy between the student body and the administration. Theyre really not out to get us.

Regalado also plans to discuss her project with members of the administration in the coming weeks and to submit a resolution to the Senate after spring break.

She hopes to increase the universitys alcohol education efforts, adding that this is an issue that affects every Tufts student regardless of whether or not they drink.

I dont know if theres enough education thats happening on campus for students to understand that after four drinks in an hour, anything more than that is binge drinking, Regalado said.

Theyre endangering themselves, their friends, and anybody thats surrounding them when theyre partaking in these kinds of activities.