Pubdate: Sun, 27 Nov 2011
Source: Diamondback, The (U of MD Edu)
Copyright: 2011 Diamondback
Author: Yasmeen Abutaleb


Advocates Hope U. Senate Will Extend Good Samaritan Policy To Include 
Drug Overdoses

For many student activists, winning the four-year fight to implement 
a Good Samaritan policy in March was only the first half of the 
battle -- they have officially begun the second round to extend the 
policy to include drug use.

Undergraduate senators officially submitted a policy to the 
University Senate Nov. 18 to extend the Good Samaritan policy -- 
which protects dangerously drunk students from university sanctions 
if they call 911 for themselves or a friend -- so students are also 
protected if they overdose on drugs. Although students pushed for an 
all-inclusive policy when they first began lobbying for Good 
Samaritan legislation four years ago, they ultimately focused on only 
getting an alcohol-related policy passed first. With a formal 
extension proposal now in hand, they are setting their sights again 
on establishing the policy they had once envisioned.

Tomorrow, the Senate Executive Committee, the body's most powerful 
committee, will review the proposal and vote whether to move the 
legislation forward to the Student Conduct Committee for extensive 
review. Undergraduate student senator Brandon Levey, who drafted the 
proposal, said student activists adjusted its wording in hopes of 
persuading older senators to vote in favor of the legislation. In the 
proposal, Levey recommends a policy that would not protect students 
who have been accused of manufacturing or selling drugs, but rather, 
one that would only prevent punishment for students with "no prior 
disciplinary record relating to drugs."

"The university's not sanctioning drug use, but really just trying to 
save lives," Levey said. "Once we get through the SEC on Tuesday, 
we're hoping the full senate will get to take it up later this year 
and arguments for it will outweigh arguments against it."

Senate Chair Eric Kasischke said because of the legal complexity such 
a policy would pose, senators will likely seek input from outside 
sources, which may mean it will take months -- or even years -- for 
the senate to vote on the proposal.

"This is a complex and emotional issue and so just like the first 
amnesty policy, it took a while, and I think this one's going to take 
a while, too," Kasischke said. "The other thing about this one is we 
are probably going to seek the opinion of university council ... so 
there are some legal ramifications we have to understand."

Levey said he already reached out to the Board of Regents -- a 
17-member governing body that oversees the University System of 
Maryland -- and received approval to propose such a policy.

"We're hoping to do this swiftly. The vast majority of student 
senators are on our side, but there are still some people who don't 
want to change [the policy] because they don't want any problems with 
the state ... but we have an OK from the state to do something like 
this," said Lauren Mendelsohn, president of Students for Sensible 
Drug Policy and a Diamondback columnist.

About 50 universities nationwide have adopted an all-inclusive Good 
Samaritan policy, including the University of Florida, Washington 
College in Maryland, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University 
and Cornell University, according to the SSDP national website. In 
his proposal, Levey also points to states that have signed the 
legislation into law, including New York, New Mexico and Washington.

Senate Chair-elect Martha Smith said even though the proposal is 
contentious, she is open to listening to arguments on all sides of the debate.

"I would think that we would have to consult with university lawyers 
because there are all sorts of liabilities, but the most important 
thing is the health and welfare of our students," Smith said. "I 
think that like any other piece of legislation, it deserves a 
thorough airing, and we want to work to formulate a policy that does 
promote the health and welfare of our students, even when it includes 
something very complicated like this."
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart