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April 24, 2013

SUNY Oneonta tweaks its policy on drugs, alcohol

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — SUNY Oneonta has seen more cases of alcohol poisoning this academic year, according to administrators presenting background to the College Council, which passed a policy Tuesday to lift judicial penalties in some cases of substance abuse requiring medical treatment.

The SUNY Oneonta College Council passed a “Good Samaritan/Medical Amnesty Policy’’ that could grant a one-time reprieve of campus judicial penalties for students who are treated in emergency situations for alcohol or drug abuse or students who report peers needing assistance.

The policy was the result of discussions with Student Association leadership and members of the SUNY Oneonta Emergency Squad, an administration document said. Rationale for the policy was to increase the likelihood that students would call for help in alcohol-related medical emergencies by removing fear of “getting in trouble’’ as a result of seeking assistance.

Under the policy, a student who receives emergency medical assistance for consumption of alcohol or drugs, whether transported to a hospital or not, would be eligible for a one-time amnesty from alcohol- or drug-use charges under the Code of Student Conduct.

To receive amnesty, each student must complete follow-up risk assessment, among fulfilling other requirements, and failure to meet requirements would result in restoration of charges and adjudication by a hearing officer. A one-year probation and educational programming might be imposed after a hearing that determines that code violations were committed, according to documents presented to the council.

Amnesty eligibility also extends to students who seek emergency medical assistance on behalf of another student, the policy states, and a report may be made through any college staff member or directly to SUNY Oneonta University Police.

SUNY Oneonta enrolls about 5,720 full-time undergraduate students, and about 3,350 live on campus.

Steve Perry, vice president for student development at SUNY Oneonta, reviewed the college’s practices and programs on alcohol and drug prevention before the College Council voted on the amnesty policy. Students who receive medical attention for drinking are a small percentage of enrollment, Perry said, and a marked increase in calls for medical assistance in cases of intoxication suggests that students are calling for help at least as needed.

Perry reported that calls to SUNY Oneonta Emergency Squad for help with substance abuse were 113 in 2012-13, as of March 26, compared with 54 calls in 2011-12. The number of student transports to a hospital for alcohol poisoning was 52 this academic year as of April 12, compared to 22 in 2011-12, he said.

The college has on-going and developing initiatives in its alcohol and drug education, non-alcoholic activities and monitoring, Perry told the council.

At a previous meeting this year, the College Council approved an amnesty policy pending review by counsel, Perry said. However, some issues were raised in the attorney’s review, and Perry said he worked with SUNY Oneonta junior James Johnston, Student Association president, on revising the policy that was approved Tuesday.

“I’m glad we were able to pass the policy,’’ Johnston, student member of the council, said Tuesday. Johnston also is on the SUNY Oneonta Emergency Squad.

The council met in the Glimmerglass Room in Hunt College Union on the SUNY Oneonta campus. The council also heard of positive results in the re-accreditation review by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and about a major fundraising campaign launched last week.

Each state-operated SUNY campus has a college council. Members are appointed by the governor to seven-year terms with the exception of the student representative, who is elected by the student body. The councils have specific statutory powers, such as naming buildings and making regulations regarding student conduct.