Union and PARC roll out SipChip drug test kits
The SipChip devices will be able to test for six common date-rape drugs in cold beverages.
SipChips, devices that test for date rape drugs, will be available to students at no cost from March 4–11. Brandeis will be the first school to have these devices available at an institutional capacity, according to organizers Ricki Levitus ’20, Director of the Prevention, Advocacy, & Resource Center Sarah Berg and Student Union President Simran Tatuskar ’21.
SipChips are single-use "date-rape" drug testing devices. Currently, SipChips test for Flunitrazepam (“Roofies”), Alprazolam (Xanax), Diazepam (Valium), Midazolam (Versed), Oxazepam (Serax) and Temazepam (Restoril), according to the PARC website. They can test any cold beverage — alcoholic and non-alcoholic. All SipChips are recyclable, and Brandeis-issued devices in their package will expire in March 2021. Devices out of their packaging are usable for 90 days before they should be discarded. Users should put one drop of their drink on the device, and in 30 seconds, one or two lines will appear on the device; two lines means that a drug has been detected. The devices are 99.3% accurate and will only give false positives, Tatuskar said.
Levitus started this project after seeing a social media post from the SipChip company, Undercover Colors, asking how they could better market their product. She started a conversation with their director of marketing and suggested they market to college campuses, leading her to reach out to PARC. They originally planned to fundraise $500, and they contacted the Union for its buy-in.
“Realizing that it was something that affects all students, I looked through Union resources,” Tatuskar said, which led her to petition to get funding from the Community Emergency and Enhancement Fund for the project. The CEEF board allotted $7,000 of their $150,000 emergency funds to the SipChip initiative, fully funding it.
Funding for this project is “nuanced,” Tatuskar said. “Theoretically, the Union can continue to fund this; it does, however, depend on who the next Union president is, the CEEF board and how they choose to vote on it,” she said. Tatuskar explained that CEEF emergency funding will always be available as an option, but funding after this year is not guaranteed.
Next year’s funding will depend on how many SipChips are used. Berg, Levitus and Tatuskar plan to monitor the amount of SipChips used during the March 4–11 pilot release, observing which locations use the most SipChips and the total amount used. They will not monitor who takes a SipChip; all students will have anonymity.
“We want to see how many chips we might need,” Berg said. “Once we know how many chips our community needs, when these ones run out, then we’ll look into how much funding we’re going to need.”
Berg, Levitus and Tatuskar have also discussed the possibility of student organizations fundraising to buy SipChips for their events, as well as having administrative and financial support from the Union.
“The goal of bringing this product to campus isn’t that we think that we should have to have a fix like this product,” Levitus said. “It’s the idea that we want to use this to raise awareness of the issue, call attention to it, provide something that can be an important safety tool to students and create an environment where drug-facilitated sexual assault won’t be tolerated anymore.”
Since 7.6% of college students have been drugged — according to Undercover Color’s website — “this is something that is relevant to all campuses,” Levitus said. However, this statistic only accounts for reported and verified drugging, so this number could be higher.
“This is happening at Brandeis,” Berg said. “That is a fact.”
Berg said that as a confidential resource, she could not disclose specific stories or statistics within PARC’s jurisdiction but that this issue “came up multiple times” in the Campus Climate Survey.
“I believe in empowering people with any possible tool they choose to use. In some ways, it’s less about the actual testing of the drink and it’s more about being in a community where everyone knows that this is widely available. … In a way, that does a lot of work to challenge the people who think they could do this in the first place,” Berg said. “They’re no longer in a community where they can get away with it.”
“I feel better just knowing I have this on my keychain,” Levitus said.
SipChips will be available at the PARC office, Student Union office, Student Sexuality Information Service office, Health Center, the Stein, Hoot Market, Gender and Sexuality Center, Intercultural Center, Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, all Department of Community Living Quad Offices and at Greek Awareness Club events.