UMW’s Alcohol and Drug Policies
A reaction by Sequoi Phipps, Section 2
At the University of Mary Washington, like any university, there are policies in place to regulate students’ alcohol and drug possession and use as well as to publicly state the consequences that are enforced for anyone that is found in violation those policies. I would like to discuss some of the aspects of these policies that stand out to me as an undergraduate student. I will address certain elements of the alcohol policy and the lack of an amnesty policy at UMW as well as elements of the UMW drug policy and the scorecard on this policy and who has power to enforce the regulations.
The UMW alcohol policy makes most of the statements that you would expect a university alcohol policy to make. It addresses the laws of the state of Virginia that regulate age, possession, and purchasing alcohol for anyone under the drinking age. The policy clearly defines what the university considers University-controlled public space, private spaces, possession, and intoxication. Then, all of the elements of how the policy is enforced and what violates the policy are explained. A thorough and clear university alcohol policy. However, in UMW’s alcohol policy, emergency services are mentioned once. Section 12 of the policy elements states “Severely intoxicated students will be referred to the University Police. Any student who is unresponsive or otherwise thought to be in danger of serious acute alcohol poisoning will be referred to Fredericksburg Emergency Medical Services or a higher level of care for treatment.” The end of section 12, however, states again that violators of the policy will still be reported, “Violations of the policy against alcohol intoxication are reported to the Director of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility or designee.”
Many universities have a medical amnesty policy in place. This policy allows students subject to a medical emergency due to dangerous or excessive alcohol or drug intake, or students reporting the medical emergency on someone’s behalf, to be excused from any disciplinary action related to the university’s drug and alcohol policy. The one time response to a medical emergency is even mentioned in UMW’s drug policy, it is clear that violations of the policy are still addressed. Often on our campus, things like “if a student’s health is in danger, contact the authorities without worrying about getting in trouble” are communicated to students from people in positions like Resident Assistants, Orientation Leaders, and the like. Coming from students in positions of some power, this sounds like a medical amnesty policy that does not actually exist. Unfortunately this presents some grey area.
In terms of the UMW drug policy, it reflects the alcohol policy in that it states the expected regulations that a university drug policy should state. However, UMW’s drug policy was rated by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), an international organization of students that raise awareness, have discussions, and are focused on the impacts of drug abuse especially in college students. From the SSDP, UMW’s drug policy received an F. They state that the reasons for this grade were the absence of a medical amnesty or “good samaritan” policy and “Strict sanctions focused on punishment with suggestion that students in violation of drug policy risk judicial action from the university in addition to federal/state authorities.” They also mentioned that “marijuana grouped with other illegal drugs in policy”.
The policy states how illegal drugs can be seized by the university and who is allowed to enter a campus residence. But who has power and what happens? Resident Assistants (RA’s) on campus are part of the Residence Life Staff. These RA’s are enrolled undergraduate students. Because of their positions and the training they undergo, they are permitted to report and confiscate illegal drugs or paraphernalia, “Materials in plain view will be confiscated by the staff members…”. But remember, these staff members could also be current students. Meanwhile, the policy states that violations can be reported to University Police and/or UMW Judicial Affairs. That’s a lot of power to place in the hands of students.
Ultimately, these policies do present and cover necessary information and regulations to promote a healthy and safe living and learning environment for students. Could some of these policies be changed to better serve the community? Could policies like a medical amnesty policy benefit the UMW community? Would more students view health and safety as a priority if disciplinary action would be waived? All of these questions, I think, are important for the University to examine. Maybe it is time for some policy updates or clarifications.
UMW Alcohol Policy: http://students.umw.edu/judicialaffairs/alcohol-policy/
UMW Drug Policy: http://students.umw.edu/judicialaffairs/drug-policies/
University of Florida Medical Amnesty Policy: http://www.ufsa.ufl.edu/faculty_staff/committees/alcohol_drug_education/medical_amnesty_policy
SSDP Drug Policy Score Card: http://ssdp.org/school-policies/university-of-mary-washington-drug-and-alcohol-policy/