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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Do the right thing

Understanding the St. Joe’s alcohol policies

Under Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan law, a person who seeks medical attention for a friend suffering from alcohol poisoning is provided immunity from underage drinking charges related to their own consumption.

The St. Joe’s student handbook outlines an official policy to this effect, referred to as the “help seeker” policy. Many other colleges and universities have similar policies, sometimes referred to as “medical amnesty”. Under the help seeker policy, students who obtain medical assistance for another student in need “will not be charged with a policy violation under the University Community Standards system,” according to the student handbook.

Policies like these are meant to encourage students to seek emergency medical help for friends or classmates suffering from alcohol poisoning or other alcohol-related health effects without fear of disciplinary action. In its sections on alcohol and drug policies, the handbook goes on to say that the University will treat an instance where a student seeks help for a dangerously intoxicated classmate as “a health and safety matter,” rather than as a violation of community standards.

However, there are circumstances in which this immunity from disciplinary action does not extend to student organizations, including official campus sororities and fraternities. If the University is made aware of a student at a party hosted by a recognized student organization who was taken to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, the entire organization could face disciplinary action. The University’s alcohol policy, among a number of standards, prohibits alcohol consumption by students under 21.

It is understandable for the University to sanction a student organization that has provided alcohol to an underage student, especially if that student needed medical attention for overconsumption of alcohol. However, this policy may deter students from seeking medical help for someone suffering from alcohol poisoning, out of fear that their entire organization will be held accountable for hosting an event where alcohol was provided.

The problem in this apparent catch-22 seems to be students placing the longevity of student organizations over the health and safety of a classmate in a medical emergency. The immediate concern of a bystander considering whether or not to call 911 for an intoxicated classmate should be the safety of that person, not the potential ramifications for a student organization.

It’s hard to imagine holding a phone, hesitating to call 911 for someone in any other medical emergency; why should a classmate with alcohol poisoning be any different? The consequences of not getting medical help for an intoxicated classmate could be life-threatening. Compared to the safety of a classmate or friend, the importance of keeping a student organization on campus is miniscule.

Of course, we also must consider the effects of official University policy on student decision making. The help seeker policy exists for a reason, as does Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan law and the medical amnesty policy of many other colleges and universities. The University’s approach to disciplining student organizations who have hosted events where alcohol was provided discourages students from seeking help for others who may be intoxicated to the point of a medical emergency, and thereby weakens the purpose of the help seeker policy.

The Jesuit value of “with and for others” is implicit in a University policy that does not punish students who look out for one another. In crafting official rules and regulations that codify our mission as a Jesuit university, it seems imperative that we place this idea at the forefront of our policies, especially those which impact student safety.

There is an apparent conflict between the help seeker policy and the University’s alcohol policy as it pertains to student organizations, for which there are no easy solutions. However, it must be possible for the University to discourage underage drinking while also recognizing that such things happen on college campuses, and it is best to amend official policy in place so that it encourages students to do so safely.

 

—The Hawk Staff

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    anonApr 11, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    “The University’s approach to disciplining student organizations who have hosted events where alcohol was provided discourages students from seeking help for others who may be intoxicated to the point of a medical emergency, and thereby weakens the purpose of the help seeker policy.”

    This is spot on.

    Reply