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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Student Government

Former SGA senator revives push for bill

Former Student Government Association senator Michael Blunk hopes to reintroduce a bill to the senate that would reform the current Student Life Policy, which he says may deter students from getting help in the case of an emergency.

The Good Samaritan Bill, first drafted by Blunk in October 2008, is designed to protect students in emergency situations who need to report drug or alcohol abuse on campus but may be discouraged by the threat of punishment under the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Policy.

“It’s simple really,” Blunk wrote in an e-mail. “No student should lose their life because (others are) afraid of punishment. Drug policies are supposed to protect people from the real harms of drug abuse, and if our policies are leading to people dying, then they’re failed policies.”

When Blunk first introduced the bill in 2008, it passed 17-1 in the senate before being vetoed by then-SGA President Sam Dike.

Blunk said this was due to some reservation Dike and other administrators had in regard to specifics of the implementation of the policy.

With the help of At-Large Sen. Dan Cato, a more refined version of the bill is being submitted this year with changes in language for better clarity.

The policy “is not intended to shield or protect those students or organizations that repeatedly violate the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Policy,” Blunk said.

The proposal also states the Dean of Students Office reserves the right to enforce more severe punishment on repeat offenders.

“We want to encourage organizations to seek out medical help if a student is overdosing at a party of theirs,” Blunk said. “But we don’t want to completely let them off the hook.”

Instead, for those students on campus who seek help — either by calling the police, contacting their resident assistant or otherwise — the Good Samaritan bill offers alternatives to harsh punitive actions that are currently in place.

These may include various educational or developmental-based sanctions, such as counseling, treatment or a drug and alcohol education class.

Blunk said student response to the policy has been overwhelmingly positive.

Polling conducted by the Students for Sensible Drug Policy — for which Blunk serves as the Executive Director of the UH chapter — reveals that a vast majority of students are proponents for such a policy on campus.

Blunk’s hope is to propose the bill once again to the SGA on March 24 — the last meeting of the 46th administrative term. If passed, his and the supporting senators’ goal is to help implement the policy on campus and to heighten awareness of the bill by posting fliers and giving presentations.

Blunk said campus policies should protect students, not scare them.

“A Good Samaritan Policy recognizes that drug and alcohol abuse happens and that we need to focus on getting students the help they need — not just punish them,” he said.

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