Policy a big win for SGA, students
Published: Sunday, April 8, 2012
Updated: Sunday, April 8, 2012 13:04
UCF’s Student Government Association finally pushed through an Alcohol Emergency Policy last week. The new rule will shield students from university punishment if they must seek emergency medical attention while drinking underage.
This comes as a big win for student government leaders, who have been vowing to pass such a policy for the last several years. The Golden Rule Review Committee actually passed a similar policy last spring, but the measure was never granted final approval.
Dr. Maribeth Ehasz, vice president of student development and enrollment services, deserves thanks for giving the go-ahead this time around.
“Sometimes students don’t feel comfortable talking to authorities,” SGA President Matthew McCann said. “This removes that fear so that students can do the right thing and report these incidents when they happen.”
A sense of urgency to enact an AEP arose after the untimely death of freshman Ann Hefferin last semester. Her roommate told the 911 operator that Hefferin had been drinking at a fraternity party earlier that night, although her cause of death was later determined to be due to natural causes.
The law will not, however, protect students from state laws on underage drinking. It will also not protect against any other type of illegal activity, such as drug use.
In order for other behaviors to be protected from punishment levied by the university, SGA would need to pass a medical amnesty policy. Such a policy has been met with criticism in the past, despite the argument that it should only apply to students with preexisting medical conditions.
Other universities, such as Cornell University and the University of Florida, have medical amnesty or “Good Samaritan” policies on the books. The language in these policies varies, but they have the similar goal of encouraging students to seek help in emergency situations.
If UCF’s AEP is seen as a success in the coming years, future student government leaders should consider expanding the policy into something resembling medical amnesty. After all, underage drinking isn’t the only risky behavior college students will engage in that could create a medical emergency.
Hopefully, AEP will be an absolute last resort for students. An attitude of abstaining from binge drinking, especially while underage, is always the smartest decision. But in those cases where someone’s life is at risk, the AEP will motivate students to make the right decision and contact authorities.