Editorial | Time to reconsider university’s alcohol policy
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 06:03
The Tufts Community Union Senate’s unanimous vote last week to add a Good Samaritan and Medical Amnesty Clause to the university’s alcohol policy confirms the sentiments of the vast majority of students on this campus. Such a clause would effect a much-needed change in drinking culture and better-enable community members who need help to receive it.
Though the university’s current policy was revised in 2011, it should be reconsidered. At the moment, students who require treatment from Tufts Emergency Medical Services will receive a warning for their first offense, and will not face disciplinary probation until further incidents. Repeat offenders are subject to more stringent punishment, with the potential for Disciplinary Probation Levels I or II or a year-long medical leave from Tufts.
As a general rule in dealing with alcohol-related issues, rehabilitation is always preferable to punitive action. Alcohol abuse at universities is rampant, as is an overall lack of education about its detrimental effects. It’s inevitable that some students, particularly those with less exposure to college life, are going to drink beyond their limits and require medical attention on occasion. The university should therefore make it a priority to help them work through the problem rather than punishing. The current policy therefore needs to be updated to include more steps between receiving a warning and probation: Expanding the warning phase beyond the first offense and emphasizing substance education would help to stem any future problems by better informing students of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.
Medical amnesty should not be unrestrained, however. A lack of meaningful consequences of any sort could backfire, encouraging even more students to drink in excess and exacerbate the problem. There gets to be a point when educational measures no longer have the desired effects, and more direct action, such as disciplinary probation, is necessary to force students to re-evaluate their drinking habits. Amnesty should not be interpreted as a boundless “get-out-of-jail” free card.
Given the overwhelming student response, doing nothing to modify the current policy is not a reasonable option. The reality is it has created on campus a culture that discourages students from seeking medical attention for fear of disciplinary consequences. In some cases, this mindset might be the difference between life and death. All alcohol-induced medical complications are immeasurably worse than any disciplinary action, so we should avoid this hypothetical entirely by refining the universitys responses accordingly.
Regardless of what changes the university actually implements, any update of the alcohol policy should address the general lack of information available to students about their rights when it comes to disciplinary matters. The university needs to do a better job of informing students about its expectations and consequences, and make this information easily accessible to those who need it.