Bhushan Deshpande | Words of Wisdom
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 03:10
As you may have heard, the Tufts administration instituted a major change to the alcohol policy this summer. Tufts now has both a Good Samaritan and Amnesty policy — if you or a friend call for medical attention for alcohol, neither one of you will get in trouble if you were drinking underage. Additionally, if anyone, including an RA or the police, calls for medical attention, the person who Tufts Emergency Medical Services (TEMS) examines or hospitalizes does not get in trouble.
It is worth stopping to consider for a moment what “in trouble” actually meant back before this past year. If a student were caught with alcohol (very separate from being drunk or needing to be TEMS’d), the first violation would be a meeting with Health Education and a warning. A second incident would warrant Probation I (which prevents you from being an RA or pledging Greek life) and another meeting with Health Ed. But it isn’t until the third offense that anything serious actually happens. In addition to a whole host of other restrictions, Probation II prevents you from going abroad or serving as an officer in campus clubs. A third offense, and there is a chance that you might be suspended.
The policies for alcohol violations serious enough to require medical attention were largely the same. There were two significant differences: First, your family was notified, and second, the ambulance ride to the hospital would cost about $2,000 (variable based on insurance).
The punishments for normal alcohol violations have stayed the same. Dangerous drinking, on the other hand, eliminates the probation levels. Instead, if you are transported to the hospital three times, the student undergoes an involuntary one-to-two semester medical leave.
My extensive, entirely unscientific survey indicates that the student body is largely in favor of this. Indeed, there are only four people I have spoken to who are not very happy with the new policy. Not surprisingly, all four are all current or former RAs.
I want to first get across the idea that RAs are not sociopaths out to get their residents. I might have a slightly biased perspective, having been an RA in Houston Hall (first floor!) last year. But not a single RA that I knew took pleasure in writing people up. And they weren’t clueless; we all knew who on our floor drank, who didn’t and who did to a worrying extent.
The RAs do have a point, though. This is a somewhat significant change for the 85 percent of underclassmen who drink. Most of them drink somewhat responsibly and are not foolish enough to get themselves into a situation where they need medical attention. At the very least, they do so behind closed doors or not in dorms, not attracting police attention with excessive noise or behavior.
Still, there are always those students who are not smart enough to hide it. Or end up throwing ragers that force the RA on duty to knock on the door. While there is plenty that an RA can overlook, actually seeing underage students with alcohol is not really something they can justifiably ignore. And so they have to do something.
But it’s a silly policy. Anti-alcohol policies and enforcement by RAs don’t do anything to affect unsafe drinking rates, so it only really ends up affecting students almost at random if they happened to do something that night that attracted the RA’s attention.
If you’re going to drink this year, do so responsibly. Don’t take five shots in 15 minutes before you go out, and don’t throw loud parties in dorms. One day, the national alcohol policy will change. Hopefully before then, Tufts gets rid of this weird situation where we only punish people for drinking safely.
Bhushan Deshpande is a senior who is majoring in quantitative economics. He can be reached at Bhushan.Deshpande@tufts.edu.