EDITORIAL: Amnesty; before it’s too late

Here at Villanova, there’s a Facebook group called “Real friends don’t let friends get VEMed.”

On the surface, the message is one of humor and loyalty to friends, but in a worst-case scenario, the sentiment can also be very dangerous.

No one wants to be the one to get his or her friend in trouble; get VEMed and a few days later you’ll end up in the Dean’s Office facing fines and parental notification. It’s a tough spot to be in as a friend. Call VEMS on a friend and you might lose a friendship; skip the phone call and you just might lose your friend forever.

Every year, 1,700 college students die as a result of alcohol and alcohol-related injuries, according to College Drinking Prevention, part of the government’s National Institutes of Health.

What if there were a way to make sure that your friend was safe while still maintaining that friendship?

A number of schools, including William & Mary, the University of Virginia, Duke, Fordham, Brown and Vanderbilt offer medical amnesty for alcohol abuse. Medical amnesty allows students who are dangerously drunk to seek medical help without fear of disciplinary consequences from their universities.

Villanova should enact a similar policy so that students seek help before it’s too late. The SGA should spearhead the effort and work with the University to craft a policy that would stop fear of punishment from being a deterrent for students who need immediate medical help resulting from alcohol abuse.

Although many universities support complete medical amnesty, a first offense policy would work best at Villanova. This way, students could learn from their mistakes and continue to be held accountable after the first incident. Fordham, another Catholic school, offers a first-offense-only policy that Villanova could model one of its own after.

Most schools that have medical amnesty programs require students to attend counseling and education programs to stop alcohol abuse. These provide positive consequences for student alcohol abusers. Instead of only offering a punishment, the school helps students recognize and overcome their alcohol problems.

The largest argument against medical amnesty is that it sends a message that binge drinking is tolerated. However, even the strictest of school administrators understands that no matter what, students will drink. In fact, four years after Cornell implemented a medical amnesty program, the levels of overall drinking remained steady while the levels of students calling for help increased 45 percent.

Students drink, but no one wants to drink to the point where he or she has to be VEMed and sometimes, transported to the hospital.

The point of the policy is to help students when they cross the line that puts their lives in danger. A medical amnesty policy at Villanova could save lives, and it’s smartest to enact a policy before any lives are lost due to the fear of getting caught and enduring the consequences.