Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Purdue amnesty plan could avert alcohol tragedy

By Eric Weddle :: Journal & Courier :: June 29th 2011

Students or their friends who become sick or injured while illegally consuming alcohol should feel comfortable calling police for help.

That is the basis of a new Purdue University policy that removes disciplinary actions for students in certain situations when medical attention is requested to help someone who is extremely drunk.

Tuesday, Purdue announced that PurdueCARES -- known generally as medical amnesty -- will be an interim policy until the university senate votes on whether to recommend its passage this fall.

"The way I look at it is it provides a peace of mind to students," said Jeffery Stefancic, associate dean of students in the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. "They are fearful if they made poor choices with alcohol that to call police or medical staff they don't want to get someone in trouble."

PurdueCARES stand for Purdue Community Alcohol-Related Emergency Situation Program. It is based on similar medical amnesty policies used at colleges across the U.S.

"PurdueCARES complements our AlcoholEdu initiative, an online tutorial new this fall to educate incoming students and student leaders about the damaging effects of alcohol," Purdue President France Córdova said in a statement. "Together, they form a comprehensive policy that addresses education and safety."

In April, the senate voted against a motion to suspend parliamentary rules that would have allowed a vote on PurdueCARES. At the time, Purdue administrators wanted to fast track the policy to ensure it would be part of Boiler Gold Rush, the orientation program for incoming students.

But during the April meeting, faculty members said they did not have enough information to consider the proposal or understand how it would be connected to ongoing alcohol education.

Morry Levy, senate chairman, said since that meeting he's been able to read more about the policy and its intent.

"I am personally in favor of the medical amnesty policy," he said. "The senate will do its delegated job to assess the policy, likely at its September meeting."

The senate is a legislative and advisory body that generally votes on academic and personnel changes which then are forwarded to Córdova or the trustees, who have the final say. Córdova approved the interim policy earlier this month.

Stefancic said campus officials wanted the interim policy in place for when the students return this fall.

"This allows us to get the student policy in place while the university senate has the time to review it," he said.

Student initiative

Purdue Student Government chose to bring the amnesty policy to the senate as means of gaining campuswide support. Brad Krites, the past school year's student body president, began meeting with administrators about the issue before taking office in mid-2010.

Krites believes PurdueCARES will have long-term impact on the health and safety of student on campus.

"This policy aims to change the culture around alcohol consumption at Purdue, but education is also essential," he said.

Stefancic said he does not know of particular instances where a student did not seek medical help out of fear of getting in trouble.

"But anecdotally you hear stories from students and you know you could be more proactive," he said.

John Cox, Purdue chief of police, and John Dennis, mayor of West Lafayette, both support the policy.

PurdueCARES will be explained to new students and organizations, such as fraternities and sororities.

The interim policy states that, "In cases of student intoxication and/or alcohol poisoning that occur on the West Lafayette campus, on the premises of a recognized student organization or at a function sponsored by a recognized student organization, the intoxicated student, as well as the student(s) seeking medical attention on the intoxicated student's behalf, will be exempt from disciplinary sanction related to alcohol consumption."

If student organizations are found to have violated state law or university regulations they would not be not exempt from discipline. Yet, the policy states that "the willingness of the members involved to seek medical assistance for a member or a guest will be viewed as a mitigating factor in determining a sanction for any violations of university regulations."

The senate is scheduled to meet Sept. 12. PurdueCARES is listed on the agenda.

For more information on the policy click here.

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