Administrators at the State University of New York at New Paltz have agreed to include in the new 2012-2013 Student Handbook a Good Samaritan Policy, which seeks to protect students from disciplinary action for underage drinking or drug possession when calling for help in a medical emergency. New Paltz SSDP worked to enact this policy during the 2011-2012 school year after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a statewide Good Samaritan Policy in 2011. Students believed that the University’s policies should align with state law to protect students living on campus, especially because New Paltz is a public university.
Former New Paltz SSDP chapter leader Wendy Cohen proposed this policy to the university’s President Donald Christian and his cabinet during the spring semester and received positive feedback. However, because of the way state universities in New York are structured, no school’s administration can make changes to a student handbook without approval from their College Council, an outside body appointed by the governor for each school. The SUNY New Paltz College Council finally approved the change in early September, which allows the school administration to move forward with the new practice.
New Paltz students have tried to pass this policy in the past without success, despite support from campus organizations such as the student government and student newspapers. Administrators argued that school officials already used this practice, but it was not explicitly stated anywhere in the Student Handbook or Code of Conduct. Cohen argued that, “without articulating the policy and making it visible to students, there is no way for them to know they won’t receive disciplinary action. Fear of police involvement is the principal reason that witnesses of a substance-related emergency don’t call for help.” She says that without having the policy written out explicitly, it does not remove 100 percent of the hesitation students feel
about seeking help.
SUNY New Paltz is the third school in the SUNY system to enact this policy, along with Binghamton University and SUNY Fredonia. In the spring of 2012 a resolution crafted by New Paltz SSDP was passed at the statewide SUNY Student Assembly, a student government for the entire SUNY system, which called on administrators at all 64 state universities to enact a Good Samaritan Policy. This statewide support reinforces the need for SUNY administrators to adopt the state law on campus.
New Paltz SSDP, in collaboration with other student groups, will begin a campaign to educate the school community about the new policy to make sure students are informed and protected.