Northwestern, I am disappointed. Responsible Action Protocol? When I heard there was a new alcohol policy I was so sure you had come to your senses and granted us full medical amnesty, but alas, you have let me down.
As North by Northwestern previously reported, the policy “stops short of providing full medical amnesty.” I can’t wrap my head around why.
This is college. Underage drinking happens. It will not stop happening. No matter what you say or do, students will continue to binge drink and, unfortunately, at times, need medical attention. You are deluding yourself if you think RAP can, in any way, be more effective than the guarantee we really need.
In general, the average Northwestern student is pretty responsible and, even under the influence, takes pretty good care of an over-intoxicated friend. But why take the chance?
Many prestigious universities grant their students full medical amnesty, so why won’t we? Lives are more important than punishment and other institutions seem to recognize that. I know we live in what once was temperance central, but times have changed. Alcohol is here. Get used to it.
These are five ways to turn Responsible Action Protocol into a medical amnesty policy, while still holding students responsible for dangerous and life-threatening decisions:
1. Refrain from documenting the incident.
People will undoubtedly help each other out if they didn’t feel like they were potentially putting a setback on a friend’s future. Of course, when you think about it logically, the decision is a no-brainer. However, in the moment it’s much more difficult to make that judgment call. When students are drinking they become very carefree. Suddenly, Tuesday’s midterm doesn’t seem too scary, and neither does your friend’s intoxication level. When in party mode, it’s much harder to recognize even the most obvious signs of alcohol poisoning. It’s not about allowing the wrong decisions, it’s about promoting the right ones. Students want to help their friends but sometimes it’s hard to trust “the man” when he’s out to get us every time we go out. Why put a barrier in front of someone’s life? When push comes to shove, students are more likely to “call, stay and cooperate.” when they don’t have to fight the guilt of getting someone in trouble.
2. Use community service to substitute formal disciplinary action.
When a student gets to a point where they need to be hospitalized, many times that experience is enough to teach them a lesson. Students need time to recover from the physical damage they’ve done to themselves as well as the stress and worry they’ve caused the people who care about them. Rather than making the situation worse through disciplinary action, offer a community service program to help get students back on their feet and feel good about themselves. Helping others is extremely rewarding and gives them a way to make up for their actions, create a positive impact, and see the good within themselves. There’s no need for harsher punishment. All that will cause is resentment and animosity. Punishment in these situations just creates an “us” versus “them” atmosphere throughout campus. A community service requirement is a much more productive way to keep people aware of their actions, while preventing antagonism (and hesitation to call an ambulance) among friends.
3. Encourage troubled students to seek counseling.
Sometimes binge-drinking isn’t just a one-time thing. And sometimes overconsumption is a result of an even more serious problem. Having university documentation of your darkest hours is not exactly what the doctor ordered. We don’t know where these alleged files are and, quite frankly, that makes us very nervous. Encourage students to get help and leave it at that. Maybe a meeting to determine the presence and/or severity of the issue with CAPS and a prescribed course of action could help. There’s no need to give students something else to stress about. We have enough on our plates, already.
4. Extend the courtesy to student groups.
Every organization is worried when there’s a party. No one is looking to cause trouble for themselves or anyone else. Over serving is never the intention, but there’s no way to monitor everyone, especially people coming from other parties. Imagine you are a risk manager at a fraternity, or the owner of an off-campus house that is throwing a party and you notice someone falling over and on the verge of passing out. You know this person only walked in about 10 minutes ago and must have been drinking elsewhere. Being the ever virtuous person you are, you call 911 because this person needs serious help. If the party was thrown by a student group (and that’s not limited to fraternities and sororities), then your organization gets in trouble and you may be put on probation. That really isn’t fair. Yes, we learn from experience and try a little harder, but no one is infallible.
5. Keep off-campus parties off campus.
I understand we all go to school here, but an off-campus house is not a dorm. There are no rules against throwing parties and drinking in your own home. If the Evanston Police Department wants to get involved and break up a party, then by all means. We know the drill. We know this isn’t MSU, (where people party in their front lawns with no problems from the authorities) and, I think we’re pretty okay with that. Let us deal with the legal responsibilities for our actions, but off-campus happenings should not be documented or punished by Northwestern.
I love this school. I love my schoolmates. And I want to love my administration. I’m sure plenty of people feel this way, too. But, dear Northwestern, you need to loosen the leash before we can trust you. Responsible Action Protocol is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. There is a serious sense of enmity between students and the administration and unless we feel like you want to protect more than you want to punish us, the rift is only going to grow. Let’s try to really make this One Northwestern.