In an Aug. 22 email to the student body, Kerry Guerard, Director of Student Rights and Community Standards, sent students a revised edition of the Rights and Responsibilities handbook for the 2015 to 2016 academic year. The new edition includes changes to the University’s Medical Amnesty Policy which is intended to encourage students to seek medical help for themselves or their friends in instances of drug and alcohol abuse without facing reprisals from the University. 

Previously, students who sought medical amnesty may have been called to the Dean of Students office for a conversation. However, the revised policy now state that students who receive amnesty “for themselves or others” will not be subject to charges provided that they comply “in all respects with any recommended educational intervention and/or behavioral assessment.” The policy states that failure to comply with any of these requirements could result in charges being filed with the Department of Rights and Community Standards which was not part of the previous handbook. The University also reserves the right to bring up charges against a student who “repeatedly violate[s] Rights & Responsibilities” or if the violations are considered “especially egregious.” This editorial board believes that these revisions to the policy do not provide amnesty, and we urge the University to prioritize student health and safety. 

This update comes at a pertinent time for first-years. Excessive use of alcohol and drugs may require students to seek medical attention for themselves or someone else, especially for new students, who may not have come in contact with drugs or alcohol in the past. In fact, an article in the Brandeis Hoot, published on Sept. 12, 2014, cited an uptick in alcohol-related incidents reported for the first full week of school—rising to 36 percent of the total medical emergencies.  

The language of the revised policy is unclear. Phrases such as “case-by-case basis,” “repeated violations” and “especially egregious” are vague and leave  too much room for interpretation. A phrase like “especially egregious,” for instance, could describe a student drinking to excess one night, or serious drug use, yet both could be subject to disciplinary action under this vague clause. It seems to this board that issuing punishments to students, especially without clearly defined terms, is not amnesty at all. 

This board believes that these changes to Rights & Responsibilities will dissuade students from calling for medical assistance from BEMCo when they really need it. Rights & Responsibilities 2014 to 2015 states that the purpose of the Medical Amnesty Policy was to “empower students to seek help,” while the new policy notably does not include this clause. The University should ensure that students get the emergency medical assistance they need and make additional resources accessible to them. 

If the University chooses to implement the revisions to this policy, it needs to make sure the student body understands everything it entails—understanding what actions pair with what repercussions. 

This editorial board believes that the University’s newly revised medical amnesty policy comes with too many terms and conditions that threaten student safety, leading us to conclude that the revisions to this policy must be reconsidered.