This semester, Colgate has experienced an unprecedented rise in student hospital transports associated with alcohol consumption. The increase has not only affected the first-year class, but has occurred across all four class years. The administration has noted and assessed the issue, ultimately pinpointing the new medical amnesty rule as the basis for the upsurge.
The administration put the medical amnesty policy into effect roughly two years ago. Medical amnesty ensures that students transported to the hospital will not be punished with points when they or their friends are proactive about going to the hospital. On the other hand, if the Hamilton Police or Colgate Campus Safety finds the student highly intoxicated, the student runs the risk of disciplinary repercussions based on the point system.
“Although I am concerned about this increase as it relates to the health and safety of our students, I believe this also illustrates that students are aware of the policies specifically in place to ensure that they seek help for themselves or a friend if they feel they are in any danger due to alcohol or drugs,” Associate Dean for Conduct Kim Taylor said.
Paradoxically, the school has deemed the change a positive one.
“I think even though it might look bad that there’s an increase in number, we need to look at it positively to see that friends are calling earlier and avoiding more dangerous situations,” Coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drug Services Jane Jones said.
Last year the administration expanded the policy to unlimited amnesty so that a student who had sought help in the past would not be penalized for seeking help again. The school has increasingly stressed that students should not be the ones responsible for taking care of an intoxicated student, but should instead call the hospital to get the best care.
“This frees the friend of having to monitor another individual, since students do not have the proper medical knowledge or training to do so,” Jones said.
Though no points are assigned to a student under the medical amnesty policy, the student who is transported for intoxication is required to meet with a series of University staff including his/her administrative dean, the associate dean for conduct, Adjunct Professor of the Health Science and Director of Student Health Services Dr. Merrill Miller and Jane Jones for an initial assessment in the counseling center.
“We take this opportunity to have multiple conversations with students regarding their choices around alcohol and how they can make healthier decisions in the future,” Dean Taylor said.
Additionally, the administration has acted to formally integrate the medical amnesty policy into the first-year transition so that students have an understanding of the policy when they matriculate to Colgate.
This year, Jones met with the first years during orientation to provide an overview of drinking life at Colgate, to discuss medical amnesty, and to give strategies for friends that may find themselves in a situation that necessitates care of a highly intoxicated person until help can be received.
As in past years, the school also sent a mailing home to incoming students and their families regarding medical amnesty and the points system. They also ran a poster campaign this fall, reminding students of unlimited amnesty.
“I believe both of these changes have clearly communicated to students that we want them to seek help without fear of disciplinary consequences,” Dean Taylor said.
In addition to these efforts, Colgate’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Advisory Committee (ADAC), a group of students, faculty and administrators, meets monthly to discuss effective ways to can continue to encourage healthy choices around these issues.
The Parker Commons parties and the recent party at the Palace Theater were initiatives that have been generated with this committee.
Dean Taylor is also working to create a policy of organizational amnesty, which would give amnesty to the organization hosting an event. This policy would be part of the administration’s larger effort to continue to encourage students to help themselves and their friends.
Contact Hannah Fuchs at [email protected]