Alcohol and Amnesty

Barbara Bell, News Editor

Alcohol-related hospitalizations are on the rise this semester, and coupled with an increasingly prevalent concern that the undergraduate student experience–the first-year experience in particular–has been completely rattled by the drinking and consumption culture, the University community is demanding reevaluation and change.

As of this publication date, 39 University students have been sent to the hospital for drinking-related issues; this is a much higher number than in years past. The community has come together over recent weeks for a series of alcohol-related discussions in response to these alarming statistics. One such discussion took place on Sept. 30 in the Terrace Room between members of Panhellenic and Interfraternity Councils as well as administrative deans.

Bucknell Student Government (BSG) continued the conversation during its weekly congressional meeting on Oct. 4, where Chief of Public Safety Steve Barilar spoke about the urgency of acting on the very apparent problems with student alcohol consumption.

“In my 26 years with the state police, I had never seen a student function with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.25 or higher,” Barilar said. He acknowledged that he’s seen higher decimals since his time at the University.

With alcohol-related transports escalating, Barilar questions what actions Public Safety can take to change campus culture. A primary concern is the (often rapid) consumption of hard alcohol.

“It’s the number one reason we’re seeing students going to the hospital,” Barilar said.

The number of transports in first-year residence halls have been equally  concerning, among other issues like theft and criminal mischief.

Barilar notes that the two biggest deterrents for drinking are currently citations and parental notifications.

“I’m fine with Public Safety being the bad guy. But it’s my biggest fear that someone on this campus is going to die from alcohol related issues. That’s what keeps me up at night,” Barilar said.

BSG President Alex Rosen ’16 also voiced the Congress’s concern over student alcohol consumption.

“We lack accountability,” Rosen said. “Seeing how our actions manifest in the greater Lewisburg community is important.”

BSG plans to host an alcohol awareness event, drawing momentum from the solidarity-type events of recent semesters. The tentative date is set for Nov. 2 in the Weis Center.

The event will be “gruesome, not morbid; personal, not traumatizing,” Rosen said.

In addition to an increase in hospitalizations, rumors have also swirled (most notably on Yik Yak) about the Medical Amnesty Policy. Student comments have suggested that the University’s Medical Amnesty Policy is changing, it has already been changed, or that it will be changed: made harsher and more severe for people who call amnesty, and worse, for people who need it. Those rumors are false.

BSG, specifically, has been targeted as wanting to bring change to the University’s Medical Amnesty Policy, which is also perpetuating misleading information.

“We have no authority to make that change,” Rosen said.

“Bucknell’s amnesty policy was put in place with the sole intention of keeping our students safe,” Dean of Students Amy Badal said. “Ultimately, if you believe you or a friend has had too much to drink and might need medical attention, I urge you to call for help—regardless of what amnesty policy may or may not apply. Making that call could save a life.”

What is amnesty?

The word amnesty refers to a pardon for those who have been convicted of offenses or an undertaking by authorities to take no action against specific offenses.

What is the University’s Medical Amnesty Policy?

The University’s Medical Amnesty Policy applies to University sanctions under the Student Code of Conduct, not state law. The policy removes the threat of official sanctions for individuals who call for or receive help when they or their fellow students have had too much to drink and need medical assistance.

What is the state of Pennsylvania’s amnesty policy?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted a law, signed by Governor Tom Corbett in 2011, that gives immunity from prosecution to a minor who calls 911 on behalf of an intoxicated friend in a medical emergency related to drinking. The law specifically exempts the person calling from prosecution. The law applies only to people under the legal drinking age of 21.

How does University policy differ from state policy?

While University amnesty removes the threat of sanctions against both the caller and the person being called for, the state amnesty policy does not exempt the drunken person needing medical attention from prosecution.

Is there a limit for how often University students can receive amnesty?

No, not really. But every time you receive amnesty, it is not a free pass. There will be consequences and those consequences will increase; i.e. attending drug and alcohol counseling sessions. If you are a second or third-time offender, you will get in more trouble.

What can I do to hold myself accountable?

-Take a break from consuming hard alcohol

-Make a pledge to go out sober

-Try not to compartmentalize your life between your academic and social commitments. Remember that as a participating member of the community, you are representing the University community and University student behavior at all times.

-Attend BSG’s alcohol awareness event. Tentatively set for Nov. 2 in the Weis Center, details and changes will follow in the near future.

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