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Group discusses medical amnesty

Nicole Toczauer | Monday, February 20, 2012

Members of Campus Life Council (CLC) discussed medical amnesty and the avenues Notre Dame can take to combat the use of conflict minerals in electronics during their meeting Monday.

Student body president Pat McCormick asked council members if they believe the University should include some form of medical amnesty in its policies. Medical amnesty protects students in need of medical assistance, and the related Good Samaritan policy protects the student who seeks assistance for the student in need.

CLC has spoken in favor of medical amnesty in the past, McCormick said.

Ed Mack, O’Neill Hall rector, said the student body of Notre Dame is held to a higher standard of helping others, even if it means facing disciplinary risk.

“It always strikes me that it would seem better if the student body said, ‘I stand first for my brother or sister,’ rather than the perception of ‘I’ll worry about myself and maybe take care of one in need,'” he said. “I think more highly of you.”

Ronald Vierling, rector of Morrissey Manor, said in two instances this year, students were not punished for helping other students, even though they themselves were intoxicated. These situations place the Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) in a difficult position, he said.

“Did we penalize the student? Of course not,” he said. “Frankly, our NDSP often casts a blind eye, but it’s state law. There will be things they have to do to follow through with that.”

Vierling said a policy of medical amnesty is not needed if students uphold the level of honor expected of them and take appropriate action in difficult situations.

“Do we need something legislating an obvious standard?” he said.

McCormick said some students still hesitate to help peers in need for fear of punishment, despite the standard of integrity they are generally held to by supporting their fellow students.

“We believe this standard is innate and honor it, but from a student perspective, there are cases where there is no mercy shown,” he said. “Instead, there’s punitive measure taken against the student that runs counter to our higher aspirations as a community.”

McCormick said the issue will be addressed in Wednesday’s Senate meeting.

CLC also discussed the issue of conflict minerals and how it relates to the Notre Dame student body. McCormick said student advocates raised Student Government’s awareness of the devastating effects of the mining of conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Regional scrambles for natural resources like these conflict minerals are the principal driver for human abuse and armed conflict in Congo, he said.

McCormick said Notre Dame has used its investment portfolio to influence global justice in the past, and it can do so now to make a statement about its position on this issue.

“It would advance compliance in companies to source where their minerals are coming from,” he said. “Minerals are making their way from places with human atrocity and into our cell phones and electronics.”

Students can take responsibility on the issue of conflict minerals by writing their congressmen and purchasing electronics from certain companies over others.

“Students can assign grades to congressmen and congresswomen to increase awareness,” McCormick said. “And they can use consumer purchases as a way of voting for particular supply chains.”

He said student advocacy can be a powerful form of leverage for broad issues like the problem of conflict minerals.

“The choices we make downstream to the extraction process are contributing to violence and human atrocity,” McCormick said. “If we can get students involved, that creates a sense of broader solidarity beyond borders that Notre Dame aspires to.”