Limited immunity: Understanding a tough decision

Calling safety staff can be a hard decision to make when alcohol is involved. Creative Commons.

The Dean of Students Office is currently reviewing and considering making changes to the limited immunity policy found in the Gustie Guide.

The limited immunity policy states that when students who have been drinking or using drugs seek help from safety or health staff for themselves or others, they will not face judicial consequences at the college. The policy is intended to allow students who need medical attention to receive it without fear of judicial consequences.

“If you take action, it says you will not have a judicial record. You will still need to have the educational sanctions. So, maybe you would need to attend the ACES workshop,” Associate Dean of Students Deirdre Rosenfeld said.

Senior Communication Studies Major and Intern for the Dean of Students Office Lacey Squier is collecting information about how the policy is used and what various constituencies think about it during January Interim Experience. She will provide recommendations to the deans for consideration.

“There is definitely a continuum of interpretations, and we’re not on the same page. The policy just isn’t clear. Some people would say just the caller gets limited immunity. Some people would say the person who needs medical attention could get limited immunity. It’s hard to know what situation merits limited immunity,” Squier said.

Rosenfeld suggested that the current policy really only protects the caller. “There’s a perception right now, and I think it’s true, that limited immunity is only good for one person. I wouldn’t say the policy says that, but our interpretation sometimes does,” Rosenfeld said.

“I hope that we discuss this as deans. It is a difficult position to think what’s honest and fair in terms of upholding policy, but also making it reasonable for students to take action,” Rosenfeld said.

While it is not clear who the policy protects from judicial sanctions, it is also only valid on campus when the police are not involved. “Campus Safety protocol is that if a non-student is present, we call the police,” Rosenfeld said.

After reviewing the policy through the eyes of a student, Squier feels the policy needs to change. “People don’t understand it. My goal is to change it, make improvements or adjustments in a way that students feel more comfortable actually using limited immunity,” Squier said.

“I think that the policy needs to be reworded, even if it doesn’t change. It needs to be clearer. It [also] needs to change so that it includes the person that calls and the person that is in need of medical attention,” Squier said.

“I think it’s a valid concern of the college that students might not call [Campus Safety] at a time when they most likely should because of the potential judicial repercussions of their choices. I think this is a good way to fight that hesitation,” Junior Biology Major Matthew Martin said.

The policy has also been discussed at Student Senate meetings. “At one of our November meetings [Rosenfeld] gave a presentation. [Rosenfeld] cleared up some questions that we had, some bad impressions that people have of the current policy and bad impressions of what the new policy could be. Phil Helt presented what other colleges are doing and what we could possibly do,” Sophomore Communication Studies Major and Senate Public Relations Chair Kate Redden said.

Senators have different opinions on the matter. “We want [to make] it easier for people to seek help when they are in bad situations and not worry about the consequences,” Redden said.

“I feel like it would be a lot safer for students and they would be more likely to seek help,” Sophomore Communication Studies Major and Student Senator Megan Nelson said.

“I could see it putting Campus Safety into a tight situation and I could see it creating gray situations. People might push the limit a little more,” Redden said.

Rosenfeld explained that some people have also suggested implementing a policy for removing violations from students’ records.

In addition, Rosenfeld said their office is also looking at the yellow card that is given to students after they violate college policies. “Technically, [a yellow card] is literally an invitation to schedule an appointment. Students with limited immunity still get a yellow card. They still immediately feel like, ‘oh I did the right thing and I still got a yellow card,’” Rosenfeld said.

Squier believes that no matter how the policy may change, communicating the benefits of using the policy to students will be important to its success. “I think the biggest hurdle right now is trying to find an argument for why students should essentially send their friends to Detox,” Squier said.

“My greatest hope would be that we have an alcohol policy that does everything possible; it encourages students to act in the best interest of their own or someone else’s health or safety, [a policy] that’s specifically what the limited immunity clause within our policy was meant to do,” Rosenfeld said.

Anyone with comments about the policy can contact Squier, the Dean of Students Office or any member of Student Senate.

3 thoughts on “Limited immunity: Understanding a tough decision

  1. Because of this article I wrote a blog asking the question if people should be protected when they get too drunk at all. I think the idea of “limited liability” is a great idea but it should be examined inside the culture of college these days.

    It isn’t like it happens by accident. A student who willingly drinks too much should probably be punished for their actions. After all it makes the university look bad, takes time from police doing actual police work & costs the university money if the student either isn’t covered.

    Tell me what you think.

  2. uuhm alcohol is something that always has, and will play its part in college life. what do u mean judicial review…for underage students?

    and how would the university have the right to tell someone they’ve drunk to much? what university is this ?

Comments are closed.