From the Daily: Making the right call

BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Published September 21, 2009

When a friend who has had too much to drink clearly needs to go to the hospital, the first thought is probably to call for help. But the law states that an intoxicated minor who calls for medical attention for a dangerously intoxicated friend can receive a minor in possession charge. To fix this, the Michigan Student Assembly and the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs are trying to include a “Good Samaritan” policy in the Student Code of Conduct that would enable students to call the Department of Public Safety without fear of legal repercussion. While the University should certainly implement this change, the Good Samaritan policy also deserves consideration and approval from the state legislature.

The Good Samaritan policy was proposed at a meeting between MSA and SACUA to discuss changes to the Student Code of Conduct. These University governing bodies are following in the steps of state Sen. Liz Brater (D–Ann Arbor), who introduced a bill to the legislature in April to protect underage drinkers who call for help on behalf of intoxicated friends. Minors who seek help for their friends would be exempt from MIPs and the resulting fines of up to $400, court appearances and possible probation. This was Brater’s second attempt to pass such legislation.

MIPs, expensive fines and inconvenient court appearances are serious threats. Rather than face such repercussions, underage drinkers may choose not to call the police when friends are in need. But lives could be saved if only underage drinkers had less to fear from calling the police at urgent times. The law should not act as a deterrent to saving lives and amending the Student Code of Conduct to include a Good Samaritan clause signals the University wants to seriously combat alcohol-related deaths.

Still, the University is hardly the only place in need of such a policy. Despite two attempts, the legislature failed to act on Brater’s bill. But this statewide bill is the best way to make sure that lives are not lost because underage drinkers fear getting MIPs. If the legislature really wants to make protect the lives of underage drinkers, it should reconsider the Good Samaritan policy and adopt it.

But the University, for its part, is not in the clear on drinking issues just by putting the Good Samaritan policy into the Student Code of Conduct. The alarming amount of alcohol-related deaths on college campuses has caught the attention of 135 college presidents, who have reacted by signing the Amethyst Initiative. This proposal calls on Congress to look into the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act and determine whether it has been effective at curbing binge drinking. A discussion on the effectiveness of the current drinking age could only be beneficial, but University President Mary Sue Coleman has refused to sign the Amethyst Initiative, calling into question her dedication to finding solutions to binge drinking as well as her supposed open-mindedness toward new ideas and approaches.

So while the University needs a Good Samaritan clause, it also needs a president who is willing to look for new solutions to the binge drinking problem on college campuses.