Caitlin Snyder is a first year master’s student at the Gilling School of Public Health
It’s a cornerstone of alcohol education: If a friend is in danger, call 911. Don’t wait.
Yet students are less likely to call for help when faced with potentially harsh repercussions. Students need to feel safe when calling for help; they need to be supported to react to the victim’s emergency rather than intimidated by penalties.
UNC is already well into another academic year with an outdated alcohol policy. Even as North Carolina recognizes that encouraging reporting saves lives — legislators passed a “Good Samaritan” bill earlier this year extending immunity for underage drinking and minor possession of illegal substances to individuals reporting an emergency — the University has yet to alter its own policies.
Students who alert police to an underage alcohol-related emergency are legally shielded from prosecution under the Good Samaritan law. They are only required to give their name to the 911 dispatcher and stay with the victim. But students remain vulnerable under University policies. Making that urgent call could affect housing and academic standing.
Other schools have already implemented policies that encourage students to stand up for friends when help is needed. Medical amnesty is generally interpreted to include immunity from disciplinary action for the caller — and often for the victim as well, as is the case at Duke University. These schools are institutionalizing a student culture that recognizes the courage sometimes necessary to help a friend in danger.