Recently I have been asked the question what am I going to do to leave a lasting legacy on this campus. This really stuck with me because I feel that something that I’ve helped create could turn into something detrimental.

Keene State College implemented its first version of a Good Samaritan Policy this January, although it just came out in the handbook about a month ago. For those who don’t know what a Good Samaritan Policy is, it’s a policy that would forgive those using drugs or drinking underage if they seek help during a medical emergency for an overdose. This policy is crucial because there have been too many stories about people hiding a friend’s overdose because they are afraid of getting in trouble.

To me it seems like common sense. We shouldn’t focus on punishing kids in an overdose. We should just make sure they get the help they need. But some people are still against believing that it’s sending the wrong message that kids can do drugs anytime. Last year, KSC’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy put in a lot of effort to get it passed. First, as my job, I wrote out a policy for KSC after looking at the pros and cons of other schools policies to make a hybrid of our own.

Photo Illustration By: Emily Fedorko / Photo Editor

Photo Illustration By: Emily Fedorko / Photo Editor

The group approved it and we started to a petition to get it gain support on campus. The SSDP president at the time, Jake Russell, brought the policy to the Student Assembly and they approved it to be looked at by the chair board and the dean. Some administrators were very supportive of the policy. Others were skeptical. After meeting with the campus health groups, fleshing out some details, we brought the policy to the dean and the board at the end of the year. They were wary about some of the details, but ultimately it got approved.

While most people would break out the champagne, there are still a lot of problems with the policy, which was added by the health office after they took it. When we met with a health administrator, Gail Zimmerman, my colleague, and I were told that while the language of the policy was changed the spirit remained the same. I respectfully disagree.

One problem of the policy is the language in some sections. There are sentences that do make it clear that there would be a limit for the victim of an overdose, if a student habitually uses the policy. But the original draft said there would be no limit on the caller of an medical emergency. For example, if a kid has been drinking underage and he calls for help with one of his buddies, then he does the same thing next week under the influence of marijuana, then there would be no limits on that student calling because that student is doing what he or she’s supposed to. We don’t want college kids to have to think, “Gee, I already called for help one time. If I do it again I’ll be on college probation.”

The sentence that addresses this follows, “Students should always seek medical attention in a drug or alcohol related emergency. However, students who have repeated violations over the course of a year could face disciplinary action.”

Nowhere is there a mention that the caller for an emergency would have no limits. One can either assume that there are limits for the number of times a student can call for help or that the language of the policy is not clear. Either way it has potential to be an obstacle for help.

Students should also be aware that any controlled substances, meaning illegal drugs, will result in Keene Police Department involvement. There is no mention of this in the Good Samaritan Law. The policy will grant immunity for possession of a controlled substance but for personal use only. Any items to indicate any distribution, such as plastic bags, scales or anything else will definitely result in in KPD involvement and discipline from the college.

There are a few problems I have with it. Sure, a Good Samaritan Policy doesn’t and shouldn’t condone selling drugs. But how will it be determined if people are selling? What if there is a plastic bag at the scene of an overdose and it’s considered to be under this umbrella? Or what if there are plastic bags that don’t have anything to do with the overdose. It’s going a little far but then again, it’s a situation that can happen.

When we proposed the original policy, we asked that the campus cover paraphernalia under the policy. They said they couldn’t because it’s illegal and they would lose federal funding. But no one had ever lost federal funding to having their own Good Samaritan Policy. The National Student for Sensible Drug Policy, not the one at Keene, put together a report to address the concern for federal funding. “Changing drug and alcohol policies on campus has never affected federal funding to institutes of higher education,” the report states.

“In fact, according to the U.S.Department of Education documentation provided to SSDP on May 2, 2012, no college or university participating in the Federal Student Aid programs has ever lost Title IV eligibility as a result of noncompliance with the DFSCA.”

The policy, lastly, also seems to stress the punitive aspect of the policy. KPD is mentioned at least three times in the policy, when stating the issue of paraphernalia. While students should know that there will be KPD involvement in certain situations, this could also scare kids away from using the policy. After all the whole point is to not be afraid to ask for help.

Take a look at Harvard University’s Good Samaritan Policy. The policy, which is about a paragraph long, states that a student can bring another student to the health office in a drug or alcohol related emergency any time.

“Any student may bring an intoxicated or drug-impaired friend to Harvard University Health Services or to a hospital, or seek assistance from College residential life staff or HUPD, and by doing this, neither they nor the friend will face disciplinary action from the College for having used or provided alcohol or drugs,” Harvard’s policy states.

While there is mention of possible disciplinary actions concerning student groups, there is no mention of police presence in their policy at all. Again there are some things that go beyond the college, which is why a state-level Good Samaritan Policy needs to be fought for in order to gain a change on campus. And I will give credit to those who took the time to make this happen and the administrators who supported it.

It’s better that we have one than not. But at the same time, in my opinion, it’s in need of some reform. The language of the policy seems draconian and has factors in the policy that could inhibit students to make that call.

This is not and shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not call for help. Good Samaritan Policy or not if my friend is dying I’m calling for help. This is a call for students to organize and fix the problems I’ve addressed. This is a challenge to administrators and students to rise up and make KSC’s Good Samaritan Policy more passionate than punitive.


Brian Rabadeau can be contacted at

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