Editorial: Adopt alcohol amnesty in future

While Marquette Student Government’s proposal for an alcohol amnesty policy was vetoed last week by MUSG President Meghan Ladwig, the principle behind the proposal is still an imperative issue facing students that needs to be implemented.
With this policy in place, overly intoxicated students — and their friends trying to take care of them — would be able to seek and receive medical attention without fear of facing the consequences of underage drinking.
This recommendation should be reconsidered by MUSG and administrators next year to decide whether to include such a policy in the student conduct code. We urge them to approve it.
Marquette’s student conduct code currently states, “Acutely intoxicated students will not be left in the care of other students, including residence hall student staff. Students will be referred to appropriate health care facilities and/or law enforcement.”
Oftentimes, students who consume large amounts of alcohol are left with friends or roommates who cannot properly care for someone who has overdosed on alcohol. Typically, students in these situations are too concerned about getting in trouble with the university or law enforcement to seek help even when medical assistance is needed.
An alcohol amnesty program would be beneficial on campus because it would eliminate students’ fear of punishment and likely increase the number of students receiving medical attention during a state of heavy intoxication.
According to a study done by the Division of Student Affairs in 2009, 41.5 percent of students surveyed said they don’t seek medical attention for intoxicated friends because they don’t want their friends to get in trouble. In addition, 26.4 percent surveyed didn’t seek out help for fear of getting themselves in trouble.
Alcohol amnesty would offer immunity for both students who call for help and students in need of help. By implementing this policy, students would realize that Marquette encourages them to seek medical attention in any situation when it is needed. Including an alcohol amnesty program will encourage more students to call for assistance, and possibly save lives.
Ladwig vetoed the proposed bill because it was not fundamentally strong enough to pass on to administrators. While MUSG members acknowledged their proposed policy needed more research and clearer wording, that doesn’t detract from the measure’s potential usefulness on Marquette’s campus. MUSG members said they plan to take up the issue again, and we encourage them to stick to that promise.
Marquette wants to keep its students safe. An alcohol amnesty policy would create an environment in which students would feel comfortable seeking help.
Other schools around the nation, like Clemson University, Harvard University, George Washington University and Yale University, have all adopted some sort of alcohol amnesty policy in order to reduce harm and help students seek treatment if they are intoxicated to the point of passing out or worse.
The number of students hospitalized at Harvard from intoxication went up 43 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to a report by The Daily Beast, a Newsweek-sponsored blog.
While increased numbers of students being hospitalized may seem troubling, it seems to indicate that Harvard’s alcohol amnesty policy is working.
Although more students are being treated for alcohol abuse under the alcohol amnesty policy, at least they are receiving the proper assistance. We’re certainly not condoning heavy, potentially dangerous drinking. But with an alcohol amnesty policy in place, students would be able to focus on getting help for their friends, rather than avoiding getting in trouble with the university or law enforcement.
While MUSG’s bill for an alcohol amnesty policy did not include enough details for administrators to consider it this year, its importance is not diminished. Marquette students should avoid heavy intoxication, but in situations when a student needs hospitalization, assistance shouldn’t be avoided out of fear of punishment. Administrators have the power to eliminate that fear.

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