EDITORIAL: Policy amendment will save lives
Students now given medical amnesty for alcohol poisoning
Let’s face it — Rutgers is a party school. Like any other enormous public institution, with tens of thousands of people and plenty of space, there’s bound to be a party at any point of the week and at any time of the day. College Avenue is pulsing with life 24/7, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When people are out with their friends, music is felt through the floor’s vibrations and people are dancing and having a good time. Students are making college memories they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. But with partying comes the darker aspects of college culture: alcohol and drugs. That’s when we enter precarious territory.
It used to be that students had to make tough decisions regarding a friend or companion experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose: Do I save myself by not calling for help and maybe fix the problem myself or do I call for professional help and be punished for it? It was a dangerous ultimatum no one should have to face. According to the University’s alcohol policy, University discipline in cases of violation of the law could result in being held accountable through the University judicial conduct process as well as the local New Brunswick/Piscataway criminal justice system. Students who decided to get help for a friend were subject to having their record tainted and/or attending alcohol counseling.
As someone detached from that specific situation, an outsider looking in, one might feel like it’s an obvious decision to sacrifice oneself to help someone else, especially if it involves life or death. Yet, the reality is that people hesitate. There are some who might get severely punished by their parents who could disown them or some might already have a tarnished record and will be in abysmal legal standing, and so the litany for why students might forgo getting help medical help for their companion goes on. Different students face a multiplicity of extenuating circumstances that cause them to think it is better to handle the issue of alcohol or drug overdose on their own. In fact, punishing students was creating more of these drastic situations.
This week Rutgers added two amendments to the Code of Student Conduct that improved this backwards policy and allowed for medical amnesty to aid students suffering from overdose. Prior to these amendments, the former policy applied punishments and ignored the inevitable reality that some college students were going to drink below the age of 21 or use drugs, regardless of said punishments. It resulted in individuals facing the worst-case scenario and ending up in lethal situations.
In 2014, a Rutgers student died of alcohol poisoning, making national headlines. Caitlyn Kovacs was a 19-year-old School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore who passed away after attending a “small gathering” at a fraternity. While we may never know, perhaps immediate help could’ve saved her. Aside from education, safety is the highest priority of this institution. The University policies compromised someone’s life, because prior to the amendments, New Jersey had medical amnesty, but Rutgers didn’t.
These new amendments come in quite late, but better late than never. It’s a fantastic initiative from the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) and the administrators. Nationwide, as many as 1,800 college students die from alcohol-related deaths every year. As we’ve seen throughout the years, criminalizing alcohol doesn’t stop people from consuming it, so there must be other ways to address this issue. Drinking and drug use in college is an unfortunate reality, but it’s a reality we have no choice but to work with.
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