On May 8, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law House Bill 4393, finally putting in place a state-wide medical amnesty bill that puts health and safety first. Under the new law, underage people seeking medical attention while under the influence of alcohol are shielded from legal punishment when they call for help and receive treatment for themselves or others. The medical amnesty laws have the potential to save lives, especially on college campuses. The law was passed more than four months ago, and yet many students outside of University housing are still unaware of it. The University needs to make it a priority to educate and inform all students about the changes in Michigan law, not just incoming freshmen.
The University has taken some steps to educate new students on medical amnesty. This summer, it worked to familiarize incoming freshmen with what the amnesty law means for them. At summer orientation sessions, University Department of Public Safety officers discussed the standards that the new law puts in place, letting students know what happens when they call in for alcohol-related emergencies. Legal changes were also reflected in this year’s AlcoholEdu course — the online alcohol education seminar incoming students are required to complete. However, many University upperclassmen are unaware of the medical amnesty law. Housing directors recently began telling resident advisors to include information about medical amnesty laws in hall e-mails in an attempt to spread the word to those living in dorms.
The University’s effort to inform students of this potentially life-saving law, however, has not extended to upperclassmen living off-campus. It has been four months since the law was passed, but the ‘U’ hasn’t sent an e-mail to the student body outlining the changes in Michigan’s law. There hasn’t been any formal reminders from the University or DPS.
Since the beginning of September, University students partook in Welcome Week and home football games, both of which are notorious for excessive drinking. Yet many students aren’t aware of the new safety measures created under the law. Given that at least 1,400 college students’ deaths a year are linked to alcohol, allowing even one student to remain ignorant of the law’s changes is unacceptable.
The changes created by the amnesty law are too closely tied to the health of students to be tossed aside as common knowledge. Any assumptions made by the administration in the belief that its students have been educated by outside sources are dangerously inaccurate. While the University should be doing more to advertise the amnesty law in order to provide students with the proper facts and eradicate misinterpretations, students share that responsibility.
The ‘U’ can easily spread the word by distributing informational flyers or sending mass e-mails, but no consistent effort has been observed. In the years to come, University administration needs to nail down a system that reaches and educates everyone at the University, regardless of year, age or geographical location. The University has the responsibility to combat issues related to health, protection and safety of its students, and when these efforts fall short, it puts every student at risk.