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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Responsible Action Protocol well-intended, but not ready

If you’ve walked through the quad, had a conversation with anyone, or spent a few minutes on campus without music in your ear, then the chances are pretty good that in the past week or so you have heard the talk about a new proposal by SGA. Responsible Action Protocol (RAP) is what they call it; students are calling it “alcohol amnesty”. Whatever alliterative, sensational name you want to give it, it’s without a doubt the next big issue on campus—at least for the student body, anyway. SGA boasts over 300 petition signatures between the 20th and 23rd while they continue to proselytize and stir the proverbial pot.

For the small minority of campus that has no clue what is going on, here is a brief run-down of the history of the proposal. To begin, it has its roots in a small discussion group put together in the fall of 2011 by the Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students, Dr. Sheila Horton; composed of a cross-section of several student leaders including Resident Assistants, Evergreens, and SGA members; with the intent of addressing a string of armed robberies on York Road earlier that season.

One present at that time was the then Director of Student Affairs in SGA, Brendan Fulmer, whose jurisdiction encompassed student safety. He explains that the group spent a couple meetings on addressing the safety concerns, but soon moved into a discussion of relieving some tension with the drinking culture on campus as a subset of that. “At one of the second or third meetings, we proposed a “good samaritan”/medical amnesty policy that would . . . alleviate some of the alcohol [issues],” he told me in an interview. From there the policy gained some ground, spent some time being hammered out and on July 24th of 2012, it was officially proposed as the Responsible Action Protocol by its main compiler, sophomore Chris Singlemann. It reached the desk of Dr. Horton and spent some time in administrative limbo as she worked with SGA to conflate both of their expectations. Since then, senior Louis A. Margules has been appointed Director of Judicial Affairs to be a catalyst for the process and keep the proposal moving by spurring the discussion between administration, the students, and their representatives.

The intention of the proposal is to encourage students to call for help when their friends are suffering from alcohol-related medical emergencies. The protocol is constructed to proactively prevent the situations where students fear judicial sanctions from the school as a result of their behavior and thus hesitate or even refuse to seek external help from resources on campus. As the policy’s own text explains, “A Responsible Action Protocol removes the fear or hesitation to call university staff in the moment of an emergency because it eliminates the fear of potential disciplinary action during the event.” However, SGA has also been honest in the protocol’s boundaries. “It is not a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Margules assured. In addition to an education process about the signs of alcohol poisoning to raise awareness beforehand, any reported situations will be supplemented with an educational portion to follow-up and reinforce the information. Simply put, it wants to offer another layer of protection for the student body involved in the drinking culture and potentially shield them from ramifications such as deferred suspension.

That sounds all well and good, and the polled students seem receptive. They ask why something like this is not in place or even remark that they thought a protocol like this was in place at Loyola. The discussion has begun and all eyes have turned to the administration with a cocksure look of “What’s the hold up?”

As SGA well knows, though, administration has had its in head in the proposal since the beginning. They are aware of its intricacies and are currently seeking to reconcile the interests of both sides of the bill. Yet the hammer always seems to come down on those in charge and often without the knowledge of their intentions. I am not sure how it works at other colleges, but our administration is rather transparent in the way they operate. They willingly offer their side of the debate, you just have to ask.

Dr. Horton, who has monitored the protocol since its inception, openly laid her cards on the table. She had been an administrator at Boston College when they passed their own version of a medical amnesty policy, and was keen on working with Loyola’s students when it was brought to her. But when the discussion first took place, Dr. Horton asked that a few key points be recognized and addressed by SGA in their proposals. First, they need to educate on the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, and second, educate on existing policies in the Student Code of Conduct. “The reason action hasn’t taken place is because those things haven’t happened,” Dr. Horton told us. While the protocol does take education in stride and attempt to bridge the lack of knowledge and awareness among students, it really avoids mentioning the current policies already in place at Loyola, and instead override them.

Reading the Student Code of Conduct, the section of Alcohol Policy not only details the penalties for particular violations, it also clearly lists a progressive set of offenses and their appropriate punishments. The first offense reads: “$75 fine, written reprimand, and alcohol education.” Second: “$125 fine, disciplinary probation, and alcohol education.” It is not until the third and fourth offense that deferred suspension and worse are even mentioned, and personally I do not think that anyone finds those repercussions really that egregious.

“Student leaders need to lead students to act better first, instead of this initiative,” and quite frankly I agree with Dr. Horton. By coming to the private (Jesuit, mind you) university of Loyola, you have essentially signed a contract with our administrators. They are not out to get you. They care about the students just as much as any of us. But they must also try and maintain the Jesuit values the school was founded on, and it is harsh to rail on them for such an effort. Father Linnane is a member of the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems, so to accuse him or his associates of shying away from the drinking culture is absurd.

The protocol is a fine idea, its heart is in the right place, and all those involved with its initiative—including Brendan Fulmer, Louis Margules, Cory Hodson and Chris Singlemann, et al—have been nothing but genuine and amicable. They are great kids with great ideas. However, after hearing the administration’s requirements and Dr. Horton’s perspective, I can understand why the proposal is in a stasis at the moment.

No one should believe that the system will be abused so that kids will drink to excess and expect to walk away hassle-free; that would be ridiculous. We should collectively have more faith in our fellow classmates than that. Also, to apply a policy because UMD or BC or Georgetown has one is a little reckless in its intent. We should consider the situation at Loyola as a separate entity. We have our own identity.

It should be noted that the offenses already in place are exceedingly fair and practically lenient for the charges. These kids are still committing crimes, and the university has a duty to uphold the law. But it still takes care of its students. The school keeps these cases within their own boundaries and I think that a short essay is honestly better than being turned over to Baltimore P.D. for a formal record. Loyola Police and Student Life also insist that students are calling; these cases involve their friends. While I can not personally account for their statements, I am inclined to believe them.

Now, my opinion is just that. The final decision comes down to Dr. Horton and the discourse she has with SGA’s executive board. All I am saying is that I can sympathize with administration’s hesitation to install such a policy. But SGA wanted to spur the discussion, and its certainly been bubbling over on campus. People are talking with each other, reasoning this out. It is hard to ask for much more. The proposal should not be abandoned, just frozen until SGA can address Dr. Horton’s concerns, and then we can come back to this.

There will never be a shortage of buzz stories circulating around campus, it seems. From the Spectrum incident of last year to the possibility of the Responsible Action Protocol in 2013-14, Loyola students always appear poised waiting for the signal to jump in the next big discussions that concern their classmates. Honestly, that is a good thing. In this age where new information is constantly being tossed over and around our heads, having an active and interested student body willing to grasp and process at least part of this exchange is preferable to an ignorant one. But every once in a while we need to step back and look at both sides of the argument. There are reasonable people on each.

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Responsible Action Protocol well-intended, but not ready