BY HALEY VARNADOE – STAFF WRITER
From day one at Centre College, students are immediately educated on the dangers of alcohol through programs such as AlcoholEDU and are informed of the disciplinary actions set forth by the school’s alcohol policy. Currently, the school’s policy has a single use medical amnesty policy, to be used when it is believed that an individual has consumed enough alcohol to put his or her physical health into question. The policy does not guarantee amnesty to any organization who may be calling on the student’s behalf. While this policy has good intentions, many in the Centre community believe that there are limitations to the policy solely because of its one time use clause and lack of disciplinary protection for organizations.
To Stephen Marks, a senior who spent this past summer working as an EMT, the medical amnesty policy as it currently stands still has “a barrier to care,”—that being the one-time use. Marks hopes to break down that barrier to ensure the safest policy possible for Centre College and its students. In an effort to do just that, Marks began a dialogue with Centre administration earlier this year to modify the current policy in hopes of granting students unlimited medical amnesties. Many colleges across the country have adopted a similar policy out of concerns for student safety regarding alcohol use. In fact, the state of Kentucky is one of 16 states that currently have an unlimited medical amnesty policy regarding alcohol consumption.
To judge the current usage of the policy in place right now, Marks administered a survey via email to the entire Centre College student body two weeks ago in hopes of uncovering data regarding student usage of the medical amnesty policy. Of the over 500 students who participated in this survey, 250 stated that they had considered calling for DPS in the case of someone they know consuming too much alcohol, though only 22% actually ended up calling for help. A large percentage of those who did not end up requesting the aid of DPS claimed that they did not want to get the individual in question in trouble by asking for help.
Many individuals who oppose an unlimited amnesty policy may think that implementing such a policy would increase the ever-present drinking culture at Centre. Marks urges those who believe a change to the policy could increase binge drinking to think of the aftereffects of someone not calling DPS in the case of a friend clearly needing help after drinking too much; “The repercussion is that this person could die or this person could not. It’s very real and people don’t realize that.”
Vice President and Dean of Student Life Randy Hays, along with other Centre administrative officials, have been in communication with Marks since the beginning of this year regarding the proposed policy change. “Our concern is about wanting to do it in a responsible way so that it does not turn into a ‘get out of jail free’ card,” Hays clarified late last week in a personal interview. “We want to put guidelines in place that help students make better decisions,” Hays said. Like most administrative officials, Hays believes that the most important thing is keeping students safe, particularly after reports of deaths due to alcohol poisoning at Miami University and Penn State last month.
If all goes as planned, Dean Hays believes this ongoing discussion could produce a policy change as soon as the end of this school year.