New alcohol policy alters judicial process
Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 08:01
Before last semester’s changes in Tufts’ drug and alcohol policy, students often feared judicial consequences when seeking assistance during alcohol emergencies. The recent additions of the limited Amnesty approach and Good Samaritan policy, however, marked the first major changes to the university’s drug and alcohol policy in three years. The new policy eliminates judicial consequences for medical alcohol emergencies and makes alcohol violations solely medical issues — allowing students to call for help without worrying about the judicial penalties.
The last major change in the Tufts drug and alcohol policy occurred when the administration made the original distinction between dangerous drinking violations and code of conduct violations. According to Dean of Campus Life and Student Leadership Bruce Reitman, the most recent change in policy brought the bifurcation one step further.
“This time we brought that same distinction to the next level of separation, which was medical incidents being just medical, not judicial,” Reitman said.
Reitman noted the particular focus on the student experience in the recent changes.
“The removal of Judicial Affairs from that piece, we’re told by the [Tufts Community Union (TCU)] Senate leaders, makes it feel like a friendlier process — one that is more supportive to students [in getting] them to go see the alcohol educators and to focus on their own use of alcohol, instead of focusing at all on whether or not they’ve violated the new code of conduct.”
According to the Tufts Student Handbook, the change in policy states that no student who seeks treatment for oneself or others will receive disciplinary action. The limited Amnesty approach eliminates judicial sanctions for up to two instances of medical intervention due to substance abuse for students. These changes have greatly reduced Judicial Affairs Officer Veronica Carter’s level of involvement in alcohol-related incidents.
“I do see some [students] for Code of Conduct violations, but I don’t see any of them for the medical transports, and that’s taken a major load from me,” Carter said. “Last year, I saw everybody for every offense on alcohol, and that was really a lot.”
Despite the significant change in Carter’s involvement, Director of Emergency Management Geoffrey Bartlett has not seen much transition in the role of Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) on campus.
“It’s had no change to our role. Our role has been for years and years to provide help in an emergency, and the role of [Tufts Emergency Medical Services] TEMS is to provide for medical needs,” Bartlett said. “Most of the calls are for illness or injuries, not alcohol-related incidents.”
Ayal Pierce and Paul Pemberton, the current and former TEMS executive directors, respectively, said that TEMS is not directly affected by the change in disciplinary policy.
“[The limited Amnesty policy] is on the discipline side of things, and, honestly, we have nothing to do with that side of it,” Pemberton, a senior, said. “As far as our medical treatment goes, we still only care about medical safety.”
While TEMS issues medical reports, those reports are strictly confidential and are not seen throughout the disciplinary process.
“TEMS reports are totally confidential,” Carter said. “I don’t see TEMS reports. The only things we see are police reports. But we do have interaction with TEMS, and we talk to them and get numbers from them.”
Pemberton viewed the sharp distinction between TEMS’ actions and Judicial Affairs, as well as the deans’ offices, as a benefit to TEMS. While the organization is not involved in the disciplinary process for alcohol-related incidents, TEMS members have seen the merits of the new policy in their interactions with students.
“The hope is that nobody is going to say, ‘I’m worried about my friend’s life, but I’m not going to call because I’m scared he might get in trouble,’” Pierce, a junior, said. “The hope is that you call and, best-case scenario, [in] ten minutes we say it’s all okay. We don’t want people not calling because they are scared of getting in trouble.”
While TEMS has only limited interactions with Judicial Affairs, the group is more strongly connected with another Tufts authority force — the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD). TEMS members and TUPD officers work together during emergencies in different manners. TUPD provides important support to the operation of TEMS, according to Pemberton.
“I would say, with TUPD, we are definitely on the same team, but at the same time we have very different functions,” he said. “Police reports are not at all related to the medical reports, [but] the police are there to facilitate our care.”
TUPD, like TEMS, does not have any connection to disciplinary actions after an emergency, apart from filing a report.
“Actually, we don’t have any role at all [in judicial affairs],” TUPD Deputy Chief Mark Keith said. “We respond to a call [and] provide assistance. We do a report for each and every call. What happens after that — reports go to the Dean of Student’s office and then they handle any after action.”