Mason adopts Medical Amnesty Program

Mason has implemented a Medical Amnesty Program to provide amnesty for students that need medical assistance and those that seek to help them in alcohol-related situations.

According to the Student Conduct website, amnesty would allow students who show responsible behavior in these situations an “educational, non-disciplinary intervention for the incident.”

Numerous organizations and departments on-campus, including student government, Mason Police, Housing, WAVES and Student Conduct provided input for the program.

Juliet Blank-Godlove, the associate dean of students, says the program aims to ensure the safety of students.

Illustration by Laura Baker

Illustration by Laura Baker

“We want students to feel comfortable getting the help they need if they are concerned that someone needs help,” Blank-Godlove said.

However, amnesty is not given in all circumstances. Students have to request amnesty and comply with parameters outlined in the program to qualify.

The program outlines three expectations for students to take action, provide assistance and practice accountability.

Students must request emergency services for a student in need before emergency personnel arrives, remain with the student until medical attention arrives and give medical professionals valuable information about the incident.

“It is an expectation that the [caller] will stay with that person and will offer information to the medical personnel that arrive,” Blank-Godlove said.

Students must also meet with a member of the Office of Student Conduct to decide if the students’ actions during the incident qualify them for amnesty. If the student does qualify, they will also be required to meet with a university staff member for educational purposes or referred to other offices for additional services.

“The goal is that it’s an educational conversation about alcohol safety or party smart tips, and the conversation could be with someone from student conduct [or] a referral to WAVES,” Blank-Godlove said.

According to the Office of Student Conduct website, if these conditions are met, there will be no conduct case, and the incident will only be recorded for informational purposes.

The program applies to Mason students regardless of if they request assistance on or off-campus. According to the 2013 Mason Police Annual Security Report, 560 liquor law referrals were issued on-campus in 2012. None were issued off-campus.

Students that need assistance can request amnesty one time, while callers can request an unlimited number of times.

According to Khushboo Bhatia, the executive chief of staff in Student Government, conversations about medical amnesty programs have been going on for about five years. This is the first year that student government has taken steps to make it happen.

“This [student government] administration this year has been very proactive in getting things done,” Student Body Vice President Dilan Wickrema said. “We’ve been very fortunate.”

Student Government plans to market the program during the Alcohol & Safety Awareness Week in October.

According to Wickrema, originally the program would only cover on-campus students within the jurisdiction of the Mason Police Department and Student Conduct. However, the off-campus component was implemented to benefit students  attend events off-campus.

“It was a great example of bringing the community, the administration and the students together to form a [program] that benefits all Mason students and community,” Wickrema said.

Wickrema says the program currently covers only alcohol violations. Including drug violations in the programcould be a possibility after the pilot year.

“We really wanted to implement this [program] this year to get a feel for how it would work and how many people choose to use it,” Wickrema said.

The program also leaves out student organizations, who are not protected if an individual at an organizational event requests amnesty. Students are able to request individual amnesty for their actions at these events, but the organization is not.

Inter-Fraternity Council President Matt Crush says the program is a step in the right direction for students as individuals but hopes that it could include student organizations in the future.

“I think the fact that we have this [program] for people individually is awesome,” Crush said. “I think that’s a huge step in the right direction. But, I really think that if an organization is willing to put everything on the line to save someone’s life, why go through the [disciplinary] process?”

According to Wickrema, including student organizations in the program would hopefully be a next step.

Despite the program’s neglect toward student organizations, Crush says that he has received positive feedback from other fraternity organizations about the program and does not feel like this is an option that will be heavily utilized.

“I don’t think that it’s necessary that often, that people need to call the cops because someone is out of control. However, when it gets to the point that it’s one person, it’s too many,” Crush said.

In an effort to promote the program, WAVES will also offer bystander training in September to students that want to learn how to help in these types of situations.

“That’s really about helping students learn how to be effective bystanders,” Blank-Godlove said. “It can make a big difference on this campus in how we interact with one another.”