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Amnesty debated

Published: Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

University administrators are aiming to  create and implement the perfect amnesty policy. For months, administrators have been gathering in meetings and task forces to design an amnesty policy that would take into consideration the needs and culture of the Boston College community – one that would neither be too lenient nor too strict. The push to adopt an amnesty policy comes from a need to alleviate the fears of students that they will be punished if they bring their friends or themselves to seek medical attention, as failure to do so could result in tragedy. As it currently stands, many students are unsure of exactly what the University's stance is on penalizing someone brought voluntarily or by friends into the infirmary. Though policy states that friends will, in fact, not be punished for their actions, a clarification of this rule could potentially save a student's life in an emergency situation.

While several area schools, such as MIT, have adopted amnesty policies following tragedies that they felt could have been avoided had a clear amnesty policy been in place, BC is taking the initiative to implement this policy as a protective measure. Still, administrators are struggling to determine where the line should be drawn between free, undisciplined aid that they fear will be abused by students, and a nitpicky amnesty policy that will leave matters as confused and opaque as they are currently. The former, a pure amnesty policy, would mean that students could bring themselves or a friend in dire straights to the infirmary and that they would be treated without sanction under the terms of medical confidentiality. Some administrators feel that a policy such as this would be taken advantage of by students who would choose to get belligerently drunk on a regular basis, contented by the notion that they could take themselves to the infirmary and be taken care of without fear of repercussions. On the other end of the spectrum, an amnesty policy that is too limiting may make it so that students are just as wary of taking themselves or their drunken friends to receive critical medical attention.

The Heights  believes that if the University is truly a proponent of putting student safety first, then its only option is to err on the side of a slightly nuanced amnesty policy, rather than one with overwhelming strictures. Instead of deterring students right off the bat with a policy chock full of restrictions, the University should implement one that has consequences based on individual use and patterns of behavior, which would better serve the entire community and punish only those students who were truly abusing the system. A policy that allowed for one or two transgressions within a certain time frame, stating that if a student, through repeated use of the policy, proved to be a serial abuser, he or she would be reported to the Boston College Police Department (BCPD). This way, the student that was uncharacteristically inebriated one night – the target population of an amnesty policy – could still obtain help without fearing harm to more than just his or her liver. At its base, however, the new amnesty policy should remain a safety net for students. It should be something that reassures students, both those who are drinking and those who are left to care for their friends, during those rare, unforeseeable times when drinking goes too far. Moreover, a policy aimed only at punishing repeat offenders may, in fact, be beneficial. It would pinpoint the students on campus that are the heavy drinkers, who could require intensive counseling, and possibly allow the Office of the Dean for Student Development (ODSD) to intervene early in these students' struggles with drinking.

It has also been noted in discussions with administrators regarding the curtailing of BC's  drinking culture that having "sober student leaders" would serve as an effective means of encouraging other students to restrict their own drinking. We believe that this would be an ineffectual way to approach the problem. Students on campus are intelligent enough, individually, to take stock of their actions and decisions and to make the correct moral choices. One is almost always disappointed when one looks to figures in the public eye, be they varsity athletes or organizers of campus events, to draw from them moral exempla.


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