Tufts adds Good Samaritan, Amnesty clauses to drug, alcohol policy

A revised university policy designed to limit judicial consequences for students under the influence of drugs or alcohol who require medical assistance for themselves or others took effect at the beginning of this year.

The new rules include a Good Samaritan policy, which states that no one who seeks treatment for oneself or others will receive disciplinary action, according to the Tufts Student Handbook. A new limited Amnesty approach also eliminates judicial sanctions for students for up to two instances of medical intervention due to substance abuse.

This policy had been under consideration for several years and was debated by both students and administrators last semester, according to Tufts Community Union President Joe Thibodeau.

“The Senate, along with others on campus, basically started to talk to the administration in a serious way about how to reform this alcohol policy,” Thibodeau, a senior said. “A task force was commissioned in the spring … and the new policy was created over the summer.”

Thibodeau said he believes that the new rules are easier to understand than in the past, and points out that they incorporate a Good Samaritan policy, guaranteeing that students will not to be punished for making emergency phone calls on behalf of their intoxicated peers.

“If a student got sick because of alcohol, their friends would be free to call for help, without [the risk of] getting in trouble themselves,” he said. “It’s a good barrier that has been removed.”

Director of Alcohol & Health Education Ian Wong felt confident that these policy revisions would make students less hesitant about seeking assistance in times of need.

“It’s helping us to help students,” he said. “Some of the barriers against calling for help, like being worried about being placed on [Disciplinary Probation One or Two] … those reasons have gone away. Now, we won’t have disciplinary action against you for calling for help. I think that’s going to be a positive [change].”

Under the policy, students will not face disciplinary action for the first two times that they are medically treated for substance abuse. For the first incident, students are required to meet with a professional in the Department of Alcohol and Health Education, according to the handbook. A second incident results in another mandatory meeting, as well as a consultation with the student’s family or guardian. It will only be upon the third offense that students will be asked to take either a medical or administrative leave from the school.

According to Carolyn Flax, Students for Sensible Drug Policy president, unlike an administrative leave, a medical leave will not be noted on students’ academic transcripts. She added that students who have sought treatment for substance abuse as frequently as three times are most likely in need of medical treatment.

“If you’ve gone [for alcohol treatment] three times in four years or less… I don’t think you can reasonably argue that that person doesn’t have an alcohol problem,” Flax, a junior, said.

Students engaging in other misconduct while under the influence of alcohol will not be excused from their other transgressions, according to Wong.

“One of the first things we had to do [while creating this policy] was to separate behavior from alcohol use,” Wong said. “Alcohol can never be an excuse for bad behavior.”

Flax said SSDP had been working hard to achieve medical amnesty on campus, and is satisfied that the school faculty was able to collaborate productively with students towards achieving this goal.

“The administration was very helpful and receptive to talking about this with us,” Flax said. “We met various times over the semester, talked about what direction we wanted to take the policy in and drafted what we wanted the policy to look like. Basically, they passed exactly what we wanted them to pass, and we’re very excited about the results.”

While the full alcohol policy is already listed in the student handbook, Flax said she hopes that the school will take further action to promote it through the use of dorm posters, social media and other methods.

“The biggest problem right now is that people are really unfamiliar with the policy,” she said. “It’ll only work if people know about it.”

Wong expressed hope that the new policy will encourage Tufts students to help each other stay healthy.

“Tufts will benefit from this policy because it doesn’t seek to punish addiction and it removes barriers to calling,” Wong said. “It encourages friends and people around them … to pick up the phone and take care of each other, and I think that’s really beneficial.”