In May 2013, the College Senate passed the Responsible Community Action Policy. Although New York’s Good Samaritan Law, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2011, offers legal protection for minors who have consumed alcohol and called in medical emergencies, Geneseo students are not exempt from Student Code of Conduct policies. In order to make sure students were not hesitant to call in help for their classmates in need, several students rallied to pass some basic form of medical amnesty for Geneseo. Unfortunately, the Responsible Community Action Policy is a step in the wrong direction, essentially codifying an ineffective, quasi-zero-tolerance policy, while doing little to abrogate student hesitancy.
The one-page policy change is steeped in cognitive dissonance: On the one hand, it accepts that fear of punishment might deter students from calling in emergencies – or at the very least make them waste valuable time weighing the consequences – and on the other, it does nothing to fix it.
Sure, the new Responsible Community Action Policy provides for one Get Out of Jail Free card, but even that is left in question with statements like, “This [change in policy] does not preclude conduct action for other violations of the Student Code of Conduct associated with underage drinking” and “Students under the legal drinking age who take affirmative action … may be exempt from student conduct sanctions for the possession and consumption of alcohol by an underage student.”
This new pseudo-medical amnesty policy is far from a model of Cuomo’s Good Samaritan 911 bill. It will do very little, if anything, to ease the tensions or hesitancy of students in reporting a medical emergency.
It is not, of course, to say that Geneseo students will not step up to the plate to help out their classmates; what is really important is the time one might spend worrying over the consequences of reporting the emergency that could have been essential to getting an emergency medical technician on the scene.
The new policy succeeds in removing all repercussions of underage drinking or illicit drugs for a student who has been the victim of sexual assault. While this is a great first step to achieving full medical amnesty at Geneseo, and a great victory in curtailing sexual abuse, the acceptance that doling out punishment under the code of conduct might deter some students from reporting emergencies undermines the rest of the policy change.
It’s a shame that such a potentially monumental change in policy has to be marred in weak language and a rigid ideology that can do nothing but slow progress. The campus’ hard limit is on “forgiving” students who choose to “Stand Up,” as well as the fact that this excusal is not even guaranteed renders the vast majority of the policy change useless.
Students will continue to hesitate on calling for help, and every second wasted over such a poorly thought out change in the code of conduct is a second wasted for people who need help as soon as possible.