Truman State University’s “dry campus” policy is well-documented, but a new caveat appeared in the student code of conduct this summer — medical amnesty. It is by no means a blanket policy, but in short, it means students who call for help and cooperate with responders in alcohol- or drug-related medical emergencies might not get a mark on their University record. It’s a step toward ensuring student safety and trust in both the Student Affairs Office and the Department of Public Safety, but it could go a step further.
We, The Index Editorial Board, commend the University for the addition of an amnesty policy, but believe the University needs to make more changes to its alcohol policy. There is much to be said for a “dry campus” policy to discourage substance abuse, but drinking can not be driven out of existence by strict rules.
Truman prides itself on how many of its students live on campus — literature from the Office of Residence Life prominently indicates roughly half the University’s undergraduates live in residence halls or campus apartments. This encourages a strong sense of community among the student body, but it also means this campus is a home, a place where people should feel safe and free. In many ways, this is true. Residence Life works to promote diversity and community through events. The Center for Academic Excellence gives help to students who are having trouble in classes. Multiple organizations provide resources and education on sexual health and safety. These are all necessary tools for success for students living on campus.
This mission fails, however, when it comes to alcohol. The University is a strictly dry campus ,and “body as a container” policies mean the threat of retribution and a mark on a compliance record is always there for students — even those of legal consumption age — who possess alcohol or are intoxicated on campus. This means students can be denied entrance to the place they should feel most comfortable, their home, when they are in their most vulnerable state. Students who make the decision to drink, however poor it may be, should not be caught in a bind and possibly forced to spend the night in an unsafe place.
One of the key provisions from the new amnesty policy is that the University reserves the right to require students to complete a substance abuse education program. Expanded use of educational programs for those who are not habitual violators of the campus alcohol policy seems like a good place to start, and this model should be used beyond the medical amnesty policy. Education and rehabilitation make much more sense than the threat of retribution.
An amnesty policy is a good development and a step in the right direction. Hopefully Truman will consider additional changes to its alcohol policy for the safety and peace of mind of future students.