Amnesty policy is improving, but still far from perfect

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The Alcohol and Other Drugs amnesty policy allows for a student to call a Resident Adviser (RA), Campus Safety or law enforcement for help without fear of punishment if they are concerned for another student’s well-being, even if one or both parties are under the influence. Previously, it only granted amnesty to one student and the person for whom they were calling.

But last semester, the Alcohol and Other Drugs committee developed a change to the policy, allowing for amnesty to cover multiple students accompanying the party who needs medical attention. As this standard was first created in order to champion student safety — encouraging students to preemptively call for help without worrying about potential punishment — the recent modification is a welcome addition.

Instead of waiting until a room is clear of people, forcing the unwell student to walk to a nearby street corner or requiring others who care about the student’s well-being to leave, the call for help can be made even earlier. In addition, no students are forced to take care of another person in need of medical attention on their own.

Yet the amnesty policy still has a long way to go.

Though a sound and much-needed practice, the criteria for receiving amnesty is still somewhat ambiguous — one passage of the policy states that it could be denied because of “certain extenuating circumstances.”

While it may be prudent for the college to refrain from proactively guaranteeing amnesty in all cases, the policy should try to explain these circumstances in the greatest detail possible so that students can feel more comfortable using it. After all, the last thing that should be on a student’s mind when thinking about calling for help is debating whether they will qualify for amnesty.

Even if a student does qualify, it is unclear what the response from Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) will be. Currently, the policy states that the parties will go through an “educational or developmental program” instead of Code of Student Conduct sanctions. But it gives no mention to what this program might entail.

In general, amnesty is one of the best policies to keep students safe, especially since many are exposed to drugs and alcohol for the first time in college. It demonstrates a prioritization of student well-being over punishment. When drugs and alcohol could make a difficult decision even more challenging, clarity is key.

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