After nearly an entire academic year’s worth of work, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) expects the Good Samaritan Policy to be approved by the president’s cabinet during the next few weeks to go into effect for next fall.
If approved, the Good Samaritan Policy grants punitive immunity to students who call for medical attention during emergencies involving alcohol. The page-long policy, written by Keene State College student Brian Rabadeau, explains the importance of student-health, especially during emergencies, and instead calls for educational sanctions. In addition, it acknowledges that drugs or drug paraphernalia must be handled by the Keene Police Department, and that KSC can not grant immunity from punitive sanctions in those situations.
KSC junior Jake Russell, who is the president of SSDP, said the club spearheaded the project at the beginning of the year when it was started. He said they began raising awareness and gaining support for the policy through tabling, meetings, and advertising. Russell said after they had received substantial backing, they had the policy introduced to student assembly, where he said Vice President of Student Affairs Andy Robinson spoke out in favor of it.
“First of all, I will give a big shout out to Vice President Robinson because he was a big help,” Russell said. “[At student assembly] Robinson stands up and already knew all about it. That was really amazing.”
After student assembly approved the policy, a task force was created to evaluate and write the policy. The policy ultimately wound up before the president’s cabinet last week for review.
Robinson said he thinks this policy would be a move in the right direction to help improve student health.
“We hope all students will call,” he said. “We hope lives will be saved. We don’t want students to even think twice.”
According to Robinson, the president’s cabinet was supportive of the policy, but had a few minor concerns. Robinson said the cabinet is likely to make a few slight changes to the policy and approve it for a one-year pilot period.
“We met just so we could talk about what the ramifications might be,” Robinson said. “The cabinet had a few comments, asked a few questions. The only concerns were a few specifics. The cabinet overall was supportive.”
Robinson said the policy was also sent to the KPD police chief, Kenneth Meola, for feedback.
Robinson said when implemented, he expects the judicial system to remain much the same, meaning students would be documented for violations as normal, “except when it came to the conduct system, we would see if the Good Samaritan Policy applied.”
Despite its positive potential, he said there are still a few pieces that need to be worked out.
“I think the real concern is what are the gray areas,” Robinson said. Particularly, the paraphernalia could pose a problem in terms of underage alcohol consumption. “In my mind, it means we wouldn’t respond to beer cans in the room,” he said, though he admitted this would be something that has to be determined.
Russell and Rabadeau admitted the policy had to acknowledge KPD’s necessary involvement in certain situations and agreed it was a fair compromise to their original language.
“We made it clear that the school can’t control what KPD does,” Russell said. “The whole idea behind it is to promote good behavior. We need more realistic approaches to issues like these.”
Rabadeau agreed and said, “I thought that was a legitimate compromise.”
Russell added that the policy is not meant to support the behavior, but to make the campus more safe for students during medical emergencies.
“It certainly doesn’t condone anything. This is for emergency scenarios,” Russell said. “We do need to address if kids abuse the policy.”
In addition, Rabadeau said the policy does not grant immunity for destructive behavior, but only for the consumption of alcohol and drugs themselves. The policy reads, “This policy does not grant immunities for other violations and crimes, such as vandalism, assault, sexual assault, rape or murder.”
“That’s not covered in our policy,” Rabadeau said. “That’s specifically covered.”
Mark Schmidl-Gagne, the coordinator of student conduct, declined to comment on the expected effects of the policy, noting that he was not involved in the process.
“I have just recently received a copy of the policy that seems to be going forward. I really wouldn’t be the best person to speak to to regarding the topic, as I wasn’t involved in the development of the policy and wouldn’t want to try and predict what it might eventually look like,” he wrote in an email. “As for what it means for Keene State, I think that is hard to say until the policy has been approved.”
Robinson applauded Russell and the other students involved for their work on the policy.
“They went through all the right steps,” Robinson said. “I do think this shows some positive responsibility from students.”
Russell said SSDP, which received the Outstanding Non-Academic Organization award at the student leadership awards, intends to keep improving policy at KSC. Rabadeau said members of SSDP are even looking at making the Good Samaritan Policy a state-wide law.
“This was a fight, but a lot of people were on our side. A lot of parents were on our side,” Rabadeau said. “We’re thinking about trying to take this to a state level.”
Both Russell and Rabadeau said schools across the nation have adopted the Good Samaritan Policy to varying degrees. They said the University of New Hampshire’s policy, however, requires students to appeal to the conduct board in order for the policy to apply, rather than automatically granting it. They said this doesn’t eliminate the hesitation to call for help, as the policy is intended to do.
Allie Bedell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org