DSG looks to modify alcohol amnesty policy for social groups

At Duke, the term EMS is thrown around a lot—frequently used as a verb when referring to a night of heavy and dangerous drinking. But some students may hesitate to call Duke EMS, or Emergency Medical Services, for a friend if it means repercussions for their selective living group or fraternity.

Duke Student Government has been working on revising the alcohol amnesty policy to reduce hesitation when it comes time to call EMS for someone in need.

Sophomore Kayla Thompson, vice president for social culture, has been working alongside sophomore Jackson Dellinger, senator for Durham and regional affairs, since the beginning of the academic year to implement changes to the policy, which currently only provides amnesty to the student who requires EMS and the student who calls EMS.

“If you’re at a party, you know if you call an EMS for your friend, the entire social group will get in trouble,” Dellinger said. “What we want to do is expand the current amnesty policy, which only covers an individual student or group of students, to a social group at large.”

After completing more than 80 hours of interviews with groups such as Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council and selective living groups, Dellinger compiled a comprehensive list of implementable suggestions to help improve Duke’s social culture—many of which concern current, longstanding alcohol policies.

“If I’m at a party at some fraternity or some SLG, and I need to be EMSed pretty badly and someone from that organization calls EMS for me, not only will the individual caller not get in trouble, but the group itself won’t have to go through the formal disciplinary process,” Dellinger said, using a hypothetical situation to explain the new policy.

However, Dellinger also pointed out that the amnesty policy is not a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. The group in question may still need to have a meeting with an advisor to review its own policies. There are caveats to ensure groups are still taking precautions to make their parties safe, such as providing water to attendees, he explained.

But if a group shows it is working to make its parties safer, it will fall under the current alcohol amnesty policy and will avoid the formal disciplinary process.

“As long as people know what guidelines they have to meet to be exempt from the formal disciplinary process, then I think it’ll be helpful,” Dellinger said. “That piece of information is critical.”

Dellinger noted that the initial alcohol amnesty revision proposals were met with positive responses and virtually no push back from administration or faculty.

“We just hope that with this policy, organizations will be more willing to help students who attend their parties, even if they’re not friends with the student, and get them the help that they need with no hesitation,” Thompson said. “We want this to be a very transparent and open thing, and we also want to foster better relationships between these off-campus groups and Student Conduct as a whole.”

The Office of Student Conduct Student Advisory Group is responsible for hearing proposed changes to any policies found in the student handbook. They have been helping to workshop the revision ideas to carefully select language and unearth any potential dangers.

“We’ve set the guidelines high enough that groups and organizations won’t take advantage of this policy and will only use it for the best interest of students and not for their own best interest,” Thompson said.

Thompson also explained that although there might have previously been hard feelings between some social groups and Student Conduct, those involved in implementing this policy change hope to get the message across that Student Conduct is there to protect student groups.

Although the policy change has not happened yet, Dellinger said that he is excited and hopeful about the outcome. He noted that Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, and the team of administrators and faculty working on the policy revisions have said the policy will hopefully be implemented at the beginning of the next academic year.

“I think what DSG has been focusing on this year is making sure that students and groups know that we’re here for them,” Thompson said. “A lot of students have expressed concerns about the social climate on campus. We’re always open to talking to individuals about their concerns and advocate for them.”


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