New alcohol protocol offers a new education for underage drinkers

By Alicia Lebens

Issue date: 3/25/09 Section: Variety • University of Minnesota Duluth Statesman

Every Monday morning, UMD students meet in classes and hallways, study groups and lunch breaks to recount their weekend exploits.

Hearing stories of freshman getting wasted for the first time, police busting a party or that guy from your math class that drank 21 shots on his 21st birthday aren’t that unusual.

Alcohol and drinking are often a part of college gatherings, but student binge drinking has been a concern to school officials and city law enforcement.

“The alcohol policy on campus is not effective. I don’t think many people really know what it is, students haven’t really been educated,” said junior Kris Dubbels.

But something is different with UMD’s new alcohol related emergency protocol. According to the Student Association, it is designed by people that really know what’s going on-students.

The new protocol deals with medical amnesty for underage students who have been drinking and find themselves in a medical emergency.

Lauretta Perry, the chemical health educator at UMD, said that right now, there is no guarantee for underage students who have been drinking when they report a medical emergency.

“The term medical amnesty has been thrown around for years and we have found that just doesn’t exist,” Perry said.

There is no guarantee that you, the victim, or any other intoxicated persons won’t be given a ticket, according to Perry. The situation is judged case by case by police officers, and there is no “get-out-of-jail-free” card.

For four years, starting in 2004, a group of student leaders, staff and faculty have been investigating and reviewing similar policies from 90 schools around the country and picked nine that are similar in size and location as UMD.

Duluth police officers and UMD police have been sitting down at discussions with students, and are getting involved with the protocol making process.

Upon reviewing these policies, it was found that there is no such thing as true amnesty for alcohol related emergencies and the team made a decision to try something new at UMD.

Students like Thomas Deminico, the Student Association Better Neighbors director, and Anna Lundberg, of the Student Legislation Coalition, are taking a stand to educate students and set the bar high when it comes to a student alcohol related emergency.

“This has the potential to save lives. Student leaders on campus have been putting years of work into this to make a positive impact,” Deminico said.

The UMD Alcohol Protocol is based on education, listening and taking a real, useful stance on an important issue, according to Perry.

Programs are beginning to be organized by student leaders and interested student groups to teach other students about identifying and effectively helping a victim in case of an alcohol-related emergency.

Some efforts to educated students on emergency situations have already been made. Students in on-campus housing have magnets on dorm refrigerators that identify an emergency and encourage students to get help, one of the first steps in the Alcohol Protocol at UMD.

“This is huge for UMD. We’re leading an alcohol-related emergency protocol for campuses around the state and country,” Lundberg said. “Hopefully, our protocal will reduce stress for students in this situation.”

If students, faculty or staff have questions, want to voice concerns or have ideas, two discussions will be held on Tuesday, March 31 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in Bohannon 90.

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