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Better define our expectations

| Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sometimes important milestones don’t get the attention they deserve.

While students at Notre Dame were busy trying to find the right classroom on the second day of classes, Aug. 26, the Office of Community Standards (OCS) sent an email about its new Expectation of Responsibility policy. This policy is similar, but not identical, to medical amnesty and “Good Samaritan” laws many states and colleges across the country have put in place.

Notre Dame student government has prioritized medical amnesty for years, and the content of the new Expectation of Responsibility is hugely important. Unfortunately, in the chaos  of the beginning of the school year, we feel many students may have mentally marked the OCS email as just another blast email and ignored its important message. Like OCS, we believe student safety is the most important issue on any college campus, and therefore, it is necessary to fully and clearly explain the Expectation of Responsibility.

The clause guarantees underage students will “be exempt from the assignment of Disciplinary Status Outcomes” — defined as “Disciplinary Probation or dismissal from the University” — if they get medical attention for another student who needs it. This is true even if the University’s alcohol or controlled substances policies have been violated.

Put simply, if you seek emergency medical assistance for a fellow student, and alcohol or drugs were involved, you will be protected against dismissal from the University and disciplinary probation, defined as “a specific period of observation and evaluation of a student’s conduct.” A student who is on disciplinary probation “may not participate in an international study abroad program or any other off-site University academic program.”

We feel it is also important to note this exemption applies to the student who receives the medical attention. If you receive attention for a medical emergency after heavily drinking or drug use, you are also protected from dismissal and disciplinary probation.

This exemption does not include repeat offenders. The Expectation of Responsibility states it is “intended to create an environment where a student … will change their future behavior,” and therefore those who have repeated “alcohol and/or drug-related incidents involving the need for medical attention” may still be subject to Disciplinary Status Outcomes at the University’s discretion.

This is a monumental step in the right direction here at Notre Dame. Before this year, a policy of this kind never existed in du Lac, in contrast to both Saint Mary’s and the state of Indiana, which have both had medical amnesty clauses since 2012.

The policy lays out a clear three-step process students are expected to follow. First, in situations that require emergency medical attention, students must “proactively contact an appropriate authority (i.e. Notre Dame Security Police, residence hall staff, 911, etc.).” Second, until those authorities arrive, students are expected to “remain with the individual requiring medical attention,” and third, “cooperate with responding emergency officials.” If students fulfill those three requirements, they have fulfilled the Expectation of Responsibility policy.

But we feel there is still room for improvement. As we have said, Notre Dame clearly lays out the expectations for students to be granted medical amnesty under the Expectation of Responsibility policy. However, we are concerned the University fails to clearly define how students can expect to be treated once they invoke this policy.

Under the current Expectation of Responsibility policy, the only clear expectation a student can have is what won’t happen: They will not be subject to dismissal from the University or disciplinary probation. While this is important, what will actually happen to them is far less clear.

According to the policy, “the student [who helped another] may be referred to an appropriate setting of the University Conduct Process for a conversation grounded in formation and development.” After this conversation, a student may still be subject to “formative and/or professional referral outcomes.”

The same applies to the student who received the medical attention, except in addition to the “formative” and “professional referral” outcomes there may also be “administrative and/or loss of privilege outcomes.”

As far as we can tell, this means students may still lose on-campus housing privileges if they are living on campus when the emergency occurs or may be subject to other punishments, from written assignments to random drug screening to bans from specific areas of campus. There is too much room for inconsistent outcomes if the policy is not clear enough.

This concerns us. We want to make our community as safe as it can be, and this new policy definitely helps in that regard. However, since the University clearly outlines the expectations for students, we believe this needs to be a two-way street. If students know exactly what to expect when they seek medical attention for themselves or another person, we believe there will be more of an inclination to err on the safe side and seek help.

When a student sees another student in need of medical assistance, the last thing that should be on anyone’s mind is what will happen to them if they help. If the students and the University are completely in sync on this matter, our community will reap the benefits.

Though we are not there yet, we believe the Expectation of Responsibility policy moves us in the right direction towards keeping students safe.

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  • David Taylor

    Notre Dame is the marketing mecca of the collegiate world.
    Undoubtedly, a panel was convened to determine what to call the policy
    that the rest of the world refers to as either The Good Samaritan or the Medical
    Amnesty policy. Under the guise of being different, this University refers to the Expectation of Responsibility policy, ostensibly to convey something to the students.

    Perhaps, the expression should be directed to the University Administration, and the Board
    of Trustees who are becoming ever, ever, ever more operative (rather than
    supportive and advisory, which is their factual charge). This step says that students may drink to
    great excess with impunity. Even if you are not old enough to drink, Notre Dame is saying, “Don’t worry, we’ve waved a magic wand so that you are covered. And
    your little dog Toto, too.”

    There is nothing about this new “policy” that is intended to increase safety. It’s intention is to offer cover to those who need it in order to do the right thing. Exaggeration? Cynicism? Take a look at the editorial. To what do the initial assertions pertain? “You will be protected . . . “ And, even then, the whiney criticism at the end of the statement expresses concern over exactly how students will be treated.

    I’m sorry. What?!?

    In fact, the Observer could not name one example of a student being dismissed or
    placed on probation under just such circumstances because, if ever happening at
    all, it has not occurred in many, many years. Second, friends, please know that those who are under the influence of mind-altering substances such as alcohol (!) are not renowned for their good judgment. This is true for anyone who is even approaching the lowest level of intoxication, not simply those who are “ripped.” Instead of the community addressing the single greatest health and safety problem at Notre Dame, we have spent time and effort making sure that the drunks have cover.

    As someone who engaged in several conversations about this “policy,” I heard thoughtful
    students say, “I know it sounds bad, but that’s how many students think.”

    Instead of holding to a higher standard, Notre Dame has caved so students can “feel
    good.” As it turns out, even that erosion of principles is not enough (“Better
    Define Our Expectations”).

    Never has Student Government, nor The Observer, nor any other student organization
    over recent years, advocated responsible, legal consumption of alcohol. Given the overriding “ethic” that “everybody does it,” students have placed the responsibility for their behavior and resulting consequences on an enfeebled administration concerned with public relations and
    MORE MONEY!!! . . . . And it worked!

    So, who’s the fool: those who make irresponsible, immature requests or those administrators
    who spend time coming up with impressive sounding labels to carry out such
    disgrace while denying that students must learn and grow so as to be
    responsible for their behavior?

    As stated in an earlier letter to this paper, an administrator still with Notre
    Dame once said that he would roll over in his grave were this silliness ever to
    be adopted.

    Having not heard from my friend and colleague recently, I have to check on him.