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News (Media Awareness Project) - US MD: Edu: Students Submit Policy Extension
Title:US MD: Edu: Students Submit Policy Extension
Published On:2011-11-27
Source:Diamondback, The (U of MD Edu)
Fetched On:2011-12-01 06:01:59

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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