This article originally published here: http://www.redandblack.com/uganews/politics/sga-to-ask-state-for-forgiveness-in-alcohol-emergencies/article_b1abfcc2-1971-11e3-94f8-001a4bcf6878.html
Representatives with the Student Government Association will push for policy initiatives at the Georgia Capitol when the state legislature convenes next year that could improve campus life, but will likely meet resistance from lawmakers.
One resolution passed by unanimous vote proposes legal amnesty for underage drinkers who end up in the hospital. The “good samaritan” piece of the resolution extends to friends who transport underage drinkers who risk dying of overdose.
That resolution was borne in the 2012 to 2013 SGA external affairs committee, became a plank of Reach, the losing executive ticket in last spring’s elections, and received Senate approval last Tuesday.
In April 2007, UGA President Michael Adams approved allowing the Office of Student Conduct to consider meting out lesser penalties to underage drinkers in medical emergencies. The policy does not exempt students from criminal prosecution by the state.
Benjamin Consuegra, who founded the University of Georgia chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said UGA should be “on the frontlines of harm reduction.”
“Most addiction professionals and law enforcement professionals say that you should focus on keeping students safe, healthy and not dead, rather than the institution focusing on criminal prosecution,” said Consuegra, a Roswell native who graduated in 2013 with a degree in English.
SSDP also advocates extending legal amnesty for those in need of medical attention for drug use.
Consuegra said any such measure could see stiff opposition from administrators, who risk looking soft on substance abuse, especially in the shadow of a 2010 designation by the Princeton Review naming UGA the number one party school in the nation.
“In my experience people in the administration like to pretend people don’t drink or do drugs,” he said.
According to SSDP records, in medical emergencies, UGA officials refer violators of the Alcohol and Other Drugs policy to substance abuse programs and alert parents. Any subsequent violation, even in a medical emergency, subjects the student to the full force of disciplinary measures the Office of Student Conduct sets down.
As of press time, representatives with Athens Regional Medical Center and St. Mary’s Health Care System could not be reached for comment by The Red & Black.