SGA Introduces New Amnesty Policy
Major changes could be coming up regarding student safety and drug and alcohol use at Colby. Chris Scammell ’18 and the Administrative Policy Working Group of the Student Government Administration (SGA) have been working all year to propose a Good Samaritan and Medical Amnesty Policy for the College. Currently, the College does not grant amnesty to the student who calls Colby Emergency Response (CER) or 911 if he or she is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. If a student is caught illegally abusing drugs and/or alcohol, Colby’s policy requires that student to attend counseling sessions, speak with their academic advisor and meet with the College’s Alcohol and Drug Counselor Katie Sawyer as well as with Assistant Dean of Conduct Melvin Adams. Scammell, along with the SGA, hopes that the implementation of an Amnesty Policy at Colby will promote student safety by encouraging students to help a friend in need without having to worry about whether they are putting themselves at risk of punishment.
Scammell was initially inspired to draft a Good Samaritan and Amnesty Policy for the College after working as a Community Advisor for the College. As a Community Advisor, he noted that he had both either encountered and heard about situations in which a student clearly needed medical attention but never received it because their friends were nervous about getting in trouble. In conjunction with his own personal experience, Scammell researched the topic of amnesty policies and their effectiveness at other academic institutions. Studies from other universities suggest a positive correlation between the existence of an amnesty policy and student safety. He found that “64 percent (35/55) of Colby’s peer institutions have a full Medical Amnesty Policy, and 78 percent (43/55) have articles in their Code of Conduct related to reducing, mitigating, or eliminating consequences for students seeking help in emergency situations.” These “peer” institutions include Ivies, NESCAC schools, and other colleges with similar profiles to Colby. After speaking with Colby students about the implementation of this new policy, Scammell noticed that some students seemed shocked that the College does not currently have an amnesty policy in place. Lane Sohn ’20 highly supports Scammell’s work: “I think it’s pretty obvious that we need an amnesty policy. So many others schools have one and only good can come out of having it.” Sohn’s comment supports Scammell’s belief that this policy will increase student willingness to call for help and will have a positive impact on student social life.
While the SGA has been extremely supportive about the new policy, there are a number of nuances to consider before finalizing a new rule for the College. One of the major points of contention that the SGA had to consider was how to monitor drug abuse and punishment regarding the use of illegal drugs. The current draft of the policy grants amnesty to those under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. To comply with the law, the policy does not protect a student if they are under the influence of any “hard” drugs (i.e. cocaine, heroine, etc.). The policy also does not protect any breaking of school policy; for example, a student can still get in trouble for covering their smoke alarm if Security or a Community Advisor enters their room to help a student.
One of the other major debates in creating the policy was that of College teams and organizations over how this policy will affect their own rules. The Administrative Policy Working Group decided that the policy will apply to all students, but coaches and organization leaders will maintain jurisdiction if one of their athletes or members is caught in an illegal situation. An organization will also be held responsible for requesting medical assistance if a student at one of their events needs help. If the organization fails to help this student they will be punished and will not be granted amnesty. McGara DeWan ’19, a member of the women’s lacrosse team, stated “I think it’s a great policy that encourages students to make the right decision by providing a safe environment for students to step in and have each other’s backs when needed.” Colby Athletics places a strong emphasis on being accountable, something that this new policy encourages.
A final point of contention is the questions of repeat offenders. Each Colby student has the option to be granted amnesty at least once during their time at Colby. After the first time, it will be left to the Dean of the College to use her discretion on whether to punish students for secondary (or continued) offenses. Scammell said that he expects that if the occurrences of offenses are not too close together, students will be granted amnesty more than once. This rule is set in place so that students do not abuse the new policy.
Given all of the hard work that has gone into drafting this new policy, it is important to spread this news to students once the policy is passed. Scammell is hopeful that the policy will begin for the 2018–2019 academic year. He hopes to broadcast the policy change through SGA Community Forums, ASURE meetings, and faculty members. The new policy will only be effective if students know that they can exercise this right to help their friends without facing consequences.