Even after the administration officially responded to the Boston University Student Union’s medical amnesty proposal, BU is no closer to adopting a good Samaritan policy.
In a March 16 letter to Union President Matt Seidel, Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore said he thinks the Union’s proposal is consistent with BU’s already existing alcohol policies.
Elmore said he wants first and foremost to ensure that all students understand BU’s treatment toward alcohol use before any steps are made toward blanket amnesty.
Elmore’s letter laid out the school’s disciplinary procedures regarding drug and alcohol use and said students who seek medical assistance ‘ordinarily will not be subject to university disciplinary sanctions’ if they comply with BU’s counseling and education programs following the incident.
Seidel said ‘ordinarily’ is not good enough.
‘In an instance of crisis, if [students] don’t have a guarantee that by doing the right thing they are not also screwing themselves out of housing or losing a scholarship, then nothing is going to change,’ Seidel, a College of Arts and Sciences junior, said. ‘If Dean Elmore is serious about changing this perception that he is admitting exists, then something needs to be done.’
Elmore said he wants to proceed cautiously because it is a sensitive and nuanced issue.
‘Before we talk about amnesty ‘- I don’t use that word ‘- but before we talk about amnesty, we have to know what we are getting amnesty from,’ Elmore told The Daily Free Press.
Union members were not surprised to learn of Elmore’s hesitance to push medical amnesty forward.
‘We’ve known for a while that this was going to be [Elmore’s] reaction,’ Union Vice President Paula Griffin, a CAS junior, said.
A Feb. 9 Daily Free Press article reported that Elmore was not in favor of immediately adopting any sort of good Samaritan policy.
‘On some levels, there may be some policy issues that are here, but on a lot of levels this may be more an issue of communication,’ Elmore said in an interview for the article. ‘In fact, it might be more than anything about communication.’
Still, Elmore has not ruled out the possibility of adjusting the school’s response to alcohol use, he said. The letter states that BU administrators plan to review BU’s procedures regarding alcohol and drug use. The end of the year review will also include re-examining the school’s treatment of marijuana incidences, Elmore said.
‘The door is open for some conversation, and the Union is pushing some conversation,’ Elmore said.
Seidel said the Union is not willing to let the issue die.
‘I don’t take Dean Elmore as the be all and end all,’ Seidel, said. ‘If he personally rejects the need for medical amnesty, then that’s his opinion. But the administration and students are free to disagree with him.’
Elmore’s response did not entirely contradict the Union’s wishes. Part of the advocacy group’s proposal intended to guarantee amnesty to victims of sexual assault in situations involving alcohol. Elmore said the university grants such pardons.
‘We don’t take disciplinary action against people who have been victimized,’ Elmore said. ‘I think that was the clearest that I’ve ever stated it. That’s the first time we’ve done that, to make a policy statement.’
Seidel and Griffin said they plan to continue pressing for universal medical amnesty, which would cover people who need any type of medical attention and their friends, at the University Council’s Committee on Student Life and Policies meetings. The committee, chaired by Elmore and responsible for recommending action on university issues, is scheduled to meet at the end of March.
Although Elmore said actual policy change is unlikely to happen soon, he hopes that the Union continues to push him on BU’s alcohol and drug treatment.
‘I think the Union goes a long way in keeping the discussion going,’ Elmore said. ‘These are important things for students to talk about.’