Over 100 emails urge CSL to extend Good Samaritan Policy
UA President Matthew J. Davis ’16 urged undergraduates to begin a letter writing campaign to voice their opinions on MIT’s Good Samaritan Policy, with respect to drug and alcohol violations.
He sent an email to councilors ahead of a Committee on Student Life meeting last Friday. The email, which he asked councilors to forward to their constituencies, included an example email a student might send to the committee.
“If you write your own email (which is encouraged), please be absolutely sure to highlight the following points (as discussed at our March Council meeting),” Davis wrote in the email.
He called for changing the policy so that it treats drugs and alcohol the same; a well-written, concise, clear, and specific policy; and a statement from a senior administrator clarifying what happens to the students involved when a medical transport occurs.
Professor Hazel Sive, Chair of the CSL, said the committee received over 100 emails about the policy and said that the topic had already been under discussion by the committee, but that the CSL is “glad to have received the emails and to understand how important the topic is to students.”
Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 told The Tech that she expects the committee to submit recommendations to her sometime in May. Barnhart will discuss the recommendations with Suzy Nelson, the incoming Vice President of Student Life, “and [they] will quickly make a decision regarding those recommendations so that any necessary implementation can commence immediately.”
Davis explained that his email, sent the night before CSL’s meeting, was so last-minute because “it’s an Institute committee so they don’t release schedules. I found out about it through a student on the committee.”
He encourages students to write the CSL ahead of each of the committee’s two remaining meetings this semester.
“It is concerning to me [that the committee has] solicited feedback from specific administrators and staff members, but never actively reached out to student leadership until the letter writing campaign,” he said.
“The way that we found out [that CSL was considering the Good Samaritan Policy] is because we get tipped off by other students and then have the foreknowledge to ask that question to the chancellor. And that’s probably a little inappropriate," he said.
MIT’s Good Samaritan Policy states that “in a situation where a student seeks attention for an alcohol-related medical emergency, MIT will treat the situation as a health and safety matter, not as a disciplinary incident.”
The policy also stipulates that if a student is the victim of a crime while under the influence of alcohol, that victim will not face disciplinary actions for alcohol use related to the incident.
“Students that receive medical attention through this practice will be required to complete educational and/or counseling program(s) that are meant to support the student and connect them with other community services and resources that may be beneficial.”
But Davis and other students claim that the policy is confusing and unsatisfactory.
“As currently written, the Good Samaritan Policy does not achieve its objective of promoting a safe and healthy campus; instead, it is confusing, is written in a manner that causes students to make poor choices for the health of their friends and community, and does not create a positive campus climate where we can adequately address problems of drugs and alcohol,” Davis’s example email reads in part.
“We are in complete agreement with the recommendations made by Matt in his email to the undergraduates,” Sean Corcoran ’16, an outgoing DormCon risk management chair speaking on behalf of himself and his co-chair, said in an email to The Tech.
“The Good Samaritan Policy should treat alcohol and other drugs equally. Drug and alcohol incidents on campus should be dealt with as a health and safety issue first and foremost. It would be irresponsible and [would invite] emergencies to have our Good Samaritan Policy stay as-is, with other drugs handled differently from incidents involving alcohol.”
Corcoran said that the risk management chairs have a meeting in the coming week with the Office of Community Development and Substance Abuse, at which they will talk about the issues and policies surrounding substances other than alcohol.
When asked if he thought that the committee would have problems with any particular recommendations, Davis said “they shouldn’t.”
“They’re all common-sense recommendations that have been implemented at other schools ... and they are things that make sense, that are supported by data. So as long as the committee does its job properly and analyzes things as a matter of fact and what is best for the health and wellness of our community, then by all means they should implement those recommendations,” he said.
According to the Mind and Hand Book, students are required to seek emergency services when they have reason to believe that the “well-being and safety [of a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol is] in jeopardy.”
Failure to summon emergency services in such circumstances is considered a serious violation of the policy and students found guilty of not complying can face disciplinary suspension and disciplinary expulsion.
While the policy is fairly clear that MIT aims to give students certain protections in medical matters involving alcohol, the same protections do not extend to incidents involving drugs, though students are still required to seek emergency help for friends needing assistance due to drug use.
Furthermore, the policy states that students who are “spotting” or trip sitting for other students who are using drugs are in violation of MIT’s drug and alcohol policies and will face sanctions.
Kevin Kraft, who is the Director of Student Citizenship and staffs the Committee on Discipline, and Don Camelio, who is the Director of the Office of Community Development and Substance Abuse, “have two very different interpretations of the Good Samaritan Policy and what its meaning is, and how it should be treated,” Davis said.
Correspondence with Camelio’s office, a student told The Tech, was “very in line with what I thought was the spirit of the Good Samaritan Policy “to treat incidents as health-related first.”
The student later received a generic email from the COD, which they thought was “very different, like ‘oh you might have broken Institute policy, your registration might be put on hold’ and lots of scary things,” the student said.
“The disparity between those two views causes a lot of confusion among students,” Davis said. “The lack of clarity on how a medical transport is treated, or how someone uses the Good Samaritan Policy, and what happens to them and the person they call in for, definitely causes students not to utilize the Good Samaritan Policy.”
Davis said that “one of the number one reasons … that that confusion arises is because when you pull [Kraft] into a room to address a group of students, he says one thing, and when you pull [Camelio] into a room, he says a different thing. What is the reality of the situation? People’s experiences are different.”
“I would encourage students to keep writing on both [upcoming meeting] dates,” Davis said.
“They modified [their original mailing list] after they received all the emails, but the reasoning is unclear.”
He said that undergraduates can now reach the committee, which will meet May 6 and May 13, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Tech will be speaking with Dean Judy Robinson, Don Camelio, and Kevin Kraft later this week.