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UI’s ‘Good Samaritan’ alcohol policy would be a welcome change

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 23, 2010 7:30 AM

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Good actions shouldn’t be reprimanded.

That’s why we support the University of Iowa’s new “Good Samaritan” proposal, or Responsible Action Protocol. The measure would add certain protections for students who call police or UI staff when someone appears to be in a dangerous drinking or drug-related situation, UI Dean of Students David Grady told the Editorial Board.

The change in policy would almost certainly foster a safer environment for students. But officials could remove additional repercussions — i.e., parental notification — to bolster the policy switch.

Under the current policy, students who end up in the emergency room after friends call for help receive a strike on their records. Two of these strikes generally result in students being suspended — on top of any legal action, additional intervention attempts, or notification of the students’ parents.

Grady plans to remove this strike from the equation, a step that would encourage students to call for help if necessary. Both the caller and the person needing help would receive protection from the UI’s normal sanctions — the “strike” — when acting in accordance with the new policy. “Students will not — under most scenarios — be subject to sanctions,” Grady said.

Instead, students who are involved would have to meet with UI officials, be assessed for alcohol problems, receive any necessary alcohol education, and have their parents notified of the incident.

The protection would only come into play when students violate the Code of Student Life, Grady said. It would not shield students from any criminal charges. “The university deals with the [Code of Student Life], and the courts deal with criminal charges,” he clarified in an e-mail.

Also, flagrant and repeated offenses would nullify any protection guarantees. If the individual calling for help was found to have supplied the alcohol to the person he or she was concerned about, the caller would also forfeit protection.

Even with these limits, the measure is a good one. It would undoubtedly decrease student reticence, leading to a safer environment for students. Still, we’re wary of fully backing a plan that includes parental notification.

While Grady said he doesn’t think notifying parents will be a barrier to responsible action, we disagree. Contacting parents is not the “non-punishment” officials make it out to be, and it could lead to tight-lipped students.

We support parental involvement — when it is apparent that there is a problem. If there is a history of offenses or a particularly severe case of abuse, then UI officials can consider taking steps to involve parents in the matter. But a single isolated case is not, in and of itself, indicative of a larger problem and should not lead to parental notification.

In addition, we generally regard involving parents in students’ non-academic lives as unnecessary and overbearing. While limited, extreme cases may necessitate notifying parents, college students should be recognized as the adults we are.

Still, the overarching policy is a good one. After all, if health and safety are the primary concerns, then officials should be willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that students seek any necessary help in dangerous situations.


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