This academic year, the Office of Student Affairs officially adopted “Good Samaritan” and limited “Amnesty” policies for dealing with substance abuse on campus.
Individual students and organizations on campus, such as Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), advocated for these policy changes, despite the fact that there is no grand departure from the policies of the past. In fact, the wording has only been slightly tweaked.
The new language codifies the otherwise murky issue of the implications of calling Tufts Emergency Medical Services (TEMS), including the disciplinary response from the university for both the student who called and the student in question. A first violation results in a warning and required meeting with a professional in the Alcohol and Health Education Department, in line with the previous policy. Subsequent offenses result in the notification of parents or guardians, additional meetings with alcohol and health professionals and, after a third offense, mandatory medical leave.
These updates to the policy accomplish two very important tasks. First, the new language makes it clear that students are not punished for “doing the right thing” and calling an ambulance. Second, this clarification then eliminates some of the hesitation students may have in debating whether to call Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) or TEMS in a dangerous situation involving drugs and/or alcohol.
There is still some ambiguity in the language of the student handbook, in situations where “other violations of the code of conduct may be pursued if they are found,” that should also be resolved. However, this “new” policy replaces lines of jargon with simple and straightforward wording.
The Good Samaritan policy is well known for protecting those who assist others from any sort of legal repercussions. These are all words and concepts that everyone can understand. By educating students about the university’s stance on offenses, judicial actions are fairer. Knowledge is power, and an informed student body is a student body that makes better decisions.
Dean of Campus Life and Student Leadership Bruce Reitman and his office should be commended for his Aug. 30 email, in which he advertised these changes to the Tufts community. By prioritizing students’ safety instead of attempting to deter drug and alcohol abuse through harsh punishment, the administration demonstrates the sort of forward thinking that will allow more students to receive the care they need in potentially life-threatening situations.