Alcohol is by far the most widely used recreational inebriant on college campuses in the United States, and at Stony Brook, it’s no different.
Nationally, four out of five college students drink alcohol, and half of college students report binge drinking.
With alcohol being used so ubiquitously on college campuses, it’s no surprise that alcohol poisoning is one of the biggest reasons college students need to seek out medical attention. About 1,800 students die from alcohol-related incidents each year, and thousands more are hospitalized due to over-drinking.
Stony Brook has made many efforts to combat these incidents, including resident assistants sponsoring alcohol education events and the university’s push of “Red Watch Band,” a group designed to train students on how to handle medical incidents regarding alcohol.
Yet, there’s an ironic hypocrisy to these efforts that is discovered when a person actually seeks out medical attention for a friend in need. Often, those who become too drunk and need to seek medical help — even those who sought attention for their friend or others in a critical state — will find themselves facing disciplinary action from campus residences.
The State of New York has a medical amnesty law, which protects people who witness, seek help for or suffer from an alcohol or drug related medical emergency from prosecution for drug use or possession. This common-sense legislation unfortunately does not apply to colleges seeking disciplinary action. Many other campuses, like Cornell or the entire CUNY system, have versions of medical amnesty to cover this, but Stony Brook does not.
This lack of a policy can prove disastrous, as I’m sure it has already discouraged students from seeking medical attention until it was absolutely necessary. Campuses where amnesty policies have been implemented have reported great success. At Cornell, the policy led to steady increases in EMS calls for alcohol incidents and a doubling in the percentage of students receiving education in intervention following an incident.
There is no good reason for Stony Brook not to adopt a medical amnesty policy for students. Students need to know that the school trusts their judgment and their decisions in times of crisis.
If a situation is dire enough that a student thinks medical attention is necessary, that student should be able to get that medical attention free from the fear of disciplinary action.
This policy has the potential to save lives.