A number of Keene State students remain active on campus by joining the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Club. Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) is an international non-profit education organization based out of Washington, D.C. A group of students at Rochester Institute of Technology and George Washington University founded this organization in 1998. Their focus: to reform drug policies around the world to make sure they are equal and legitimate for everyone.
This year, KSC joined the New Hampshire SSDP chapter, one of 41 chapters in the United States. The club, led by President Jake Russell and Vice President Stephanie Caravedo, recently began a new campaign. This campaign includes implementing a Good Samaritan Policy on the Keene State College campus. Good Samaritan Policies, also known as Medical Amnesty policies, enable students to make life-saving decisions when their friends are in trouble due to alcohol overdose without facing punishment from the school.
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“There are many instances on campuses across America in which kids overdose on alcohol and their friends won’t call 9-1-1 for them. Sometimes they just leave their friends behind and they end up suffering brain damage and things like that. The Good Samaritan Policy protects the students that do call 9-1-1 for their friends,” Keene State College SSDP chapter President Jake Russell said. “The policy promotes non-punitive punishments. This means, for the victims that overdose, they don’t lose housing or get kicked out of school or anything like that. It concentrates more on treatment, awareness programs, and online courses that the student would take.”
“It’s all too common for students to try and sleep off an alcohol overdose just because they don’t want the hassle of getting the police involved or hospital bills. You should call 9-1-1 if you feel that your friend is in danger, no matter what,” policy writer Brian Rabadeau said. “But this policy just makes it so that students won’t have to worry about getting in trouble for doing the right thing.”
“Of course, if these alcohol infractions keep happening with the same student over and over again, they will see the standard repercussions from the school,” Vice President Stephanie Caravedo said.
Currently, there are 91 universities around the country that enforce a Good Samaritan Policy. Also, in New Mexico, if a drug user overdoses and their acquaintance calls 9-1-1, they are protected from drug possession charges. This law carries across the entire state. California, Connecticut, Maryland, Nebraska, New York and Washington also have similar legislation.
In order to get this policy instituted on our campus, SSDP began passing around petitions last month to all students. “As you can see, there are many petitions going around campus. Everyone in SSDP has a petition that all students can sign at any time of the day,” Caravedo said. “Also, before we present this petition to the board, we are going to have students write letters of personal encounters that they’ve faced concerning this issue because I think it will be important for the board to see how not having this policy has affected students lives.”
On the administrative side of the policy, KSC officials don’t want to send the wrong message to our students.
“A Good Samaritan Policy avoids the issue. Students don’t take responsibility for the things that they do as much when this policy is instituted. And in college, that’s the lesson we want our students to learn. Students face no consequences for their actions under this policy,” Director of Residential Life & Housing Services, Kent Drake-Deese, said. “That’s not the message we want to send to our students. We want to impress upon our students that they shouldn’t be engaged in these behaviors in the first place. In some ways, it avoids the true issue.”
Although some people at KSC don’t believe that this policy would promote responsible behavior, Jake Russell does. “It is not a get out jail free card for kids who drink too much. It’s a policy that will promote responsible behavior,” Russell said.
For Drake-Deese, he’s had the opportunity of seeing this policy in action on other campuses.
“I’ve worked at schools that have a Good Samaritan Policy and I’ve worked at schools that don’t have one. And I’ve realized that in some places, the collective sensibility of the campus just doesn’t buy into that. And in some places they do,” Drake-Deese said. “The Good Samaritan Policy in and of itself is a philosophy and not necessarily seen as a universal truth.”
However, Russell said, “Campus officials might say, ‘Are we sending the right message to the kids?’ because the students won’t be punished if they drink too much. But they should be concerned about sending the right message. The message we want to send is that campus officials care more about saving a student’s life rather than punishing them. Deterring kids from drinking should never come in the form of another student’s obituary.”
The petition currently has over 500 signatures and the SSDP hopes to have 1,000 by winter break. After the break, they intend to propose this policy to the board and hope that they can see eye to eye on this policy. Until then, if any students are interested in helping the cause they can contact President Jake Russell and Vice President Stephanie Caravedo.
Michelle Berthiaume can be contacted at email@example.com.