Amnesty policy must be made safer, more inclusive

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As part of its Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy, Occidental employs an amnesty policy that comes into effect when a student seeks medical attention for his or herself or on behalf of another student. This policy exempts students from disciplinary action for both personal possession or use of illicit substances, including consumption of alcohol by minors. While the administration asserts that this is an effort to ensure that students’ safety takes priority over disciplinary policy, the narrow and not clearly communicated details of the amnesty policy indicate that the policy could be improved in order to demonstrate trust in students and further prioritize their safety.

Firstly, the amnesty policy is vague. While the current policy dictates that both the student in crisis and the student calling for help will not be punished, this leaves the other students on the scene unaddressed. If a student is at a party, for example, or with a group of friends, does this make all the other students present subject to disciplinary action? Or does it require everyone else to leave so that only one student, alone, is allowed to care for their peer in need? Both of these solutions to alcohol or drug-induced emergency situations are ridiculous. Further, the policy reads that it does not protect students who are found to be in violation of other Occidental college policies from disciplinary action. If students are having a party that otherwise would not have received noise complaints or other cause for discipline, they should not automatically be punished for seeking medical attention for one partygoer.

The amnesty policy does make sure to include, however, that “in order to receive Medical amnesty, students must use the policy proactively …. The Medical Amnesty Policy should not be abused.” Students in college who help their drunk friends should be given the benefit of the doubt, not be suspected for “abusing” the amnesty policy. When a student is in need of medical attention, whether or not the person helping them is strictly adhering to a policy should not be a concern.

The fact that Occidental has an amnesty policy is great. It shows compassion for students who are still learning use alcohol responsibly in a school where they are not given much room to experiment. But the reality is that college students already regard contacting authorities for help in an alcohol related situation as their very last resort. The amnesty policy must be clarified further and made more inclusive so that this is no longer the case. Occidental students should feel like their school, its administrators, Resident Advisors and Campus Safety officers are looking out for their safety and well-being. In its current form, though, the narrow yet ambiguous amnesty policy makes students wary of searching for help in what can theoretically be life-threatening situations.

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