The University’s proposed medical amnesty policy is a positive step for the health, safety and well-being of the entire student body. GW deserves praise for implementing this program, which clearly indicated that it listened to reasonable students concerns. First-time underage drinkers now have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes instead of forgoing medical treatment in pursuit of a clean judicial record. While this program is a good first step, the University must clarify remaining ambiguities in the program.
Last year, this page argued for the implementation of a clear medical amnesty policy. At that point, a major concern was not that students should have the right to engage in illegal activity without repercussions. Rather, the most pressing concern was the ambiguity of the Student Judicial Services underage drinking policy, and general lack of knowledge throughout campus about the consequences of seeking medical treatment for underage drinkers. This put many students in a precarious position: having to decide between seeking help for a friend in need and risk judicial action against them, or leave them to the potentially fatal consequences of excessive inebriation.
While it is encouraging that the University has taken this first step, the greatest issue – that of ambiguity – still exists. In the program’s outline thus far, GW officials have not definitively answered whether medical amnesty extends to other underage drinkers seeking attention for their friends, or merely the person in need of medical attention. If there is room for University administrators to reconsider their position on this issue, they should give serious consideration to extending amnesty to all first-time offenders involved in each incident.
Perhaps more important than the specific details of this medical amnesty policy is that those details are articulated clearly and openly to the student body. Especially at the beginning of the year when many freshmen are exploring their own boundaries and engaging in underage drinking, an amnesty policy free of ambiguity will serve the interests of both students and the administrators concerned with health and safety issues.