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CSA Passes Drug Policy Resolution, Creates Task Force to Spark Discussion

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Zosie Sandell’s ’17 suspension for drug possession earlier this term sparked a conversation about Carleton’s drug policies, which prompted the CSA Senate to pass a resolution that calls for revisions to Carleton’s alcohol and drug policy.

Passed Monday, October 20, the resolution proposes the creation of a taskforce of students, staff and representatives of the administration to rewrite Carleton’s drug and alcohol policy, which critics say is unclear.

Of specific concern to Marco Dow ’17 and CSA president Becca Giles ’15, who helped draft the resolution, is the lack of language providing protection for students who call for help after drinking underage
or using illegal substances. Both Dow and Giles argue that a situation in which a student feels torn between helping a peer and potential disciplinary action is not ideal.

While Minnesota has codified medical amnesty, which tries to encourage people to call for help by removing most penalties for underage drinking or illicit drug use for a person who calls emergency services, Carleton officially has no such policy.

Instead, Carleton’s policy on the consequences of alcohol or drug use is relatively vague, simply stating that “violations [of the policy] will be reviewed and sanctions imposed by the dean of students, the dean of the college, the vice president of the college or the judicial hearing board.”

Students who were involved in the drafting of the CSA resolution, including Giles and Dow, are quick to note that the lack of a health and safety clause in the policy is not because the administration does not take student actions into account when deciding on consequences for violations of the policy.

Instead, Dow said the administration seems focused on “looking at the whole student” and situation when deciding on consequences instead of on a policy or set of guidelines that enumerate probable responses to violations.

Dow said the current policy could leave students unsure of the consequences of call- ing for help. He cited a study from Cornell University that found that instituting a medical amnesty policy increased calls for help.

“The administration often acts in certain ways, it’s just not codified,” Giles stated. The theme that emerged throughout interviews with involved students is that policy changes would predominantly affect how policies are written, not the outcomes of most disciplinary actions.

Therefore, Giles said that her expectation for the task force is that it will “review the policy, and make it align better with our mission and the Dean of Students office’s general practice.”

Both Giles and Dow also emphasized how receptive they have found the administration to be thus far.

Dow pointed out that the general focus of discussed policy changes is on the ideas that students should feel comfortable calling for help for a friend.

“We need public discussion of how to make students comfortable doing that, and policies need to be written down,” he said.

Giles said that when she and Dow went to the deans to meet, “they already seemed to be thinking about creating a discussion about policy change.”

At the CSA meeting last Monday, Dow said that thus far, the deans have expressed only concern that a “hyper-structured drug and alcohol policy would go against the college’s policies” of considering situations on a case-by-case basis.

Without administration approval, the task force will not be formed, and even if the task force is formed, it will not necessarily make changes to Carleton’s alcohol and other drug policy.

Regardless, students are advocating for a healthy and safety clause, which is like a medical amnesty clause.

Additionally, The Carletonian staff’s review of policies at other liberal arts institutions within Minnesota revealed that many of those that allow alcohol on campus have some sort of “medical amnesty,” “good Samaritan,” or “health and safety” clause enumerated in their student handbooks. Even some schools with dry campuses, such as St. Olaf, have such policies.

Dow said that many of Carleton’s peer institutions, including Amherst, Macalester and Pomona have these policies.

At most of these schools, violations of drug and alcohol policies that result in stu- dents calling for help do not trigger disciplinary action regarding alcohol or drug use, especially for a first time offense. Instead, they can result in students being referred to health services for screening and education on alcohol and drug abuse.

Whether this is a policy that the proposed task force might propose is unclear.

“Processes like this take a long time, but as long as student interest remains high, and there are strong advocates, I think it will happen,” Giles said.

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