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Macalester’s Good Samaritan policy updated, becomes less punitive

Recently, Macalester’s Good Samaritan Policy, which allows students to report situations involving substance abuse without fear of reprisal, was updated to better reflect its intent. The rewrite of the policy involved a name change to the Community of Care Policy as well.

The writers, who include Assistant Director of Residential Life, Amanda-Rae Barboza, Dean of Students, Jim Hoppe, and a group of three students, are hoping that the new name better reflects the Macalester values, including the value of taking care of one another.

The policy itself lays out the provision that if students are under the influence of any substance, including drugs and alcohol, and are in need of medical attention, the students involved won’t face disciplinary action if they reach out for help.

The updated policy is similar to the original version, except with a greater focus on clarifying the process. The revision is the result of three students who took the initiative to approach college staff and administration with a request to update or change the Good Samaritan Policy to make it more concrete.

The biggest change is the length of the actual policy. The Good Samaritan Policy was about one paragraph, while the Community of Care policy is three paragraphs long. It spells out what is expected of students involved during and after the situation.

“We hope that with the clearer wording, health will be the first priority in decision making,” said Barboza.

In the revision process, comparable provisions at other colleges and universities were used as inspiration.

“I think they are all starting to come down to be pretty similar. It’s just a matter of what style of language resonates best with your community. For example in some places it’s a little more formal because that’s the nature of all their policies, while in other places … it’s more the spirit of the law than the letter of the law,” said Hoppe. “We opted to be a little more informal and a little more direct about the expectations.”

The students who initiated the conversation also extensively researched similar policies, pulling out pieces they liked and wanted to implement.

“We looked at the policies and asked ourselves how we could mirror them at Macalester,” Barboza said. “In other policies, consistently, students meet with a staff member following the incident,” she added.

The process outlined in the Community of Care policy indicates that students involved in a substance abuse situation will meet with a Macalester staff member, to discuss what happened to cause the issue and what precautions can be taken to prevent such incidents in the future. After that, options for moving forward will be discussed, usually involving an educational component such as an online module.

There may be documentation of attendance at a follow-up educational component, but not in a disciplinary capacity. “I never really have an issue with not sending someone through conduct,” Hoppe said. “I more worry about if we find somebody who we think has a problem on display. We would feel negligent if that person didn’t learn from the situation and ended up in a worse situation a month from now.”

He added that “we are trying to find that balance of providing the education, even though we are not going to be punitive.”

The educational process is separate from the conduct violation one. A student who reports a substance abuse situation and complies with the follow-up process will not be subject to any formal disciplinary action, provided there are no exceptional circumstances. The objective is that students who need help will have the resources to do so, without having to worry about their disciplinary record.

“The expectation is that you stay with the person and follow directions,” said Hoppe. “It might be documented that you attended, but it won’t be assigned as a conduct violation.”

However, the policy is not meant to be a free pass for illegal activity. If a student is involved multiple times in substance abuse-related incidents, a more in-depth method of intervention may be implemented.

“To be sure, if there is a consistent issue or concern, there may be a different outline as to when a policy applies,” Barboza said.

“I’ve seen a change in the last several years towards the nature of students being much more willing to seek help, and if we can improve upon that even more, then I think everybody wins,” Hoppe said.

“Since the implementation, we have seen an increase in the number of calls to staff for assistance and for help. For some folks, they think, ‘wow, that’s an increase in the numbers of calls we are getting,’ but then that makes me wonder if people needed help before and didn’t know what to do or what was going to happen next,” Barboza added.

February 19, 2016

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