Drinking has always been a part of college life, and unfortunately, things can sometimes get out of control. It is important that when someone drinks too much, they feel comfortable seeking the medical help they need quickly. A university’s priority should be preserving the health of its students, not dispensing punishments. Sadly, the current GW policies deter students from seeking medical attention when heavily intoxicated. Such policies compromise the safety of the student body and therefore must be changed.
Under the current policy, if a student calls EMERG because they are heavily intoxicated and feel they need medical attention, EMERG will refer the student’s case to Student Judicial Services. When students are sent to the hospital, SJS can give them deferred cancellation of housing, threatening the ability of students to continue here at the University. The University sends the message that seeking help can put students on the path to losing housing. The University seems to think that if you need medical attention, you should be more concerned with your health then getting in trouble.
Sounds like rational thinking to me. There’s just one problem: when you’re drunk, you don’t generally think rationally. In fact, GW’s own Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education notes that alcohol causes “reduced judgment capacity” and “reduced self-control.” Most students would probably agree that, when drunk, most people would be more worried about a call home and how to avoid such a punishment rather than their medical condition. If the University had the right priorities, it would place more importance on a student getting medical attention, rather than punishing the student for this behavior. Instead, they have a policy in place that deters students from seeking the medical help they need.
The rational policy would be to make EMERG calls confidential so students who need help can get it, free from fear. The sad truth is that students are compromising health precautions at times to avoid a run-in with SJS. This shouldn’t be the situation.
Some might ask whether the University could legally make such calls confidential. Doesn’t it have to bring the students in because of liability concerns? To answer that question, all you have to do is look up the street to Georgetown University. GERMS (Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service) is Georgetown’s equivalent for EMERG. On their Web site, in response to the question, “Will I get in trouble with DoPS/Housing if I get GERMed due to underage drinking?” The answer to this question is “No.? Housing and DoPS both agree that it is more important that you get the medical care you need.? Therefore, they have both agreed not to hand out violations at our calls.”
What a novel idea; it is more important that someone get the medical care that he or she needs. If only the University’s policies reflected such principles.
It seems that a policy emphasizing student safety is possible. And it’s what we ought to demand as students. It is imperative that our University not wait for a tragedy before reforming its policy. The health of students must be the top priority and that means that calls to EMERG must be made confidential.
-The writer is a junior majoring in political science.