By Sam Marinelli
This past summer, a medical assistance provision to the existing alcohol policy was added by the University administration, including Dean of Students Paul Pugh, in response to student needs. The University approaches its alcohol policy seriously, as alcohol is a prevalent problem on college campuses.
“We are always updating the code of conduct from any input we get from any number of sources,” said Pugh. “It’s always changing. We always had [the medical assistance provision] in the sense of what this office did, but the students wanted to know.”
The medical assistance provision of the policy states, “In keeping with Augustinian values that promote a caring community and since the health and safety of students is of primary concern to the University, students should contact a University official when medical assistance is needed for an intoxicated/impaired student.” Although this is something the University always urged, it needed to be put into writing.
According to the written policy, “Students who seek medical assistance for an intoxicated/impaired student will not be subject to formal University disciplinary action if they, too, are intoxicated or in violation of the University Alcohol Policy at the time of the notification. This policy does not apply to incidents involving potential sexual misconduct or other crimes of violence.” In other words, if individuals feel the need to call for medical assistance for fellow students, even if they, too, were drinking, the University will not pursue disciplinary action for the friends who call for help.
It is important to note that in certain circumstances, the University will have to pursue disciplinary actions if there are other violations being made such as violence, theft, etc.
“We are not going to pursue [the student assisting a friend] in a disciplinary manner,” Pugh said. “There are some caveats. We cannot control what the police are going to do. If the person reporting may have had other violations, somehow we’d have to address that.”
He continued with, “We talk about community here. A caring, Augustinian community. We know sometimes—we wish it didn’t happen—but students are going to drink too much.” Pugh added that even before the medical assistance policy was spelled out, students made sure to help their friends.
“We get such great students,” he said. The medical assistance portion of the policy was included so that the provision was explicit, not just implied. “We never had written it down in the code of student conduct,” Pugh said. “To be fair and honest in all the years I’ve been here. None of us would pursue [punishment against a student helping a student in trouble]. We may have a conversation with that person, but from a disciplinary point, we will not be pursuing it, unless in a case of those caveats.”
While the University may be very similar to most other campuses, Pugh notes that our students are a huge support system for each other.
“Our students really care for each other. When in doubt, they do call for help,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to have such great students.”
The timing of this modification of policy was not a reaction to any particular incident on campus and has been in the works for years. Input was sought from the Student Government Association, students and other universities.
“We didn’t do it to keep account of less or more [incidents],” Pugh said. “We did it to keep a sense of safety in the community. It wasn’t to try and manipulate numbers. It was so that out students know if a student needs help, step up and get help.” He said that students can easily distinguish between illegal and irresponsible alcohol use. . It is important that our students look out for one another and focus on the safety of themselves and others.
“Once they get on campus [students] are going to be faced with these tough decisions. A poor decision based on a short term goal might have a long term impact,” Pugh said. He urges students to help one another if they are in need, but to steer clear of irresponsible situations at all costs.
“We want [students] to have fun, I would hope that they would in balance,” Pugh said. “I think our students work hard to come to Villanova, they come from good families, they work hard, and they may make some mistakes and they learn from those mistakes.” Along with the hope of keeping students safe, Public Safety officers are now mostly all trained in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, which will aid them in assessing intoxicated persons. Additionally, a portable breath test (PBT) may be administered to determine if further medical assistance is necessary.
“Public Safety has changed how we assess students who have been drinking, with a goal of ensuring that our assessments are accurate,” said David Tedjeske, director of Public Safety. “In doing so, our goal is to ensure that anyone who needs medical assistance gets it, while at the same time not unnecessarily calling for EMS when the student might actually be fine to return to their room.”
Chris Marroletti, president of SGA, wanted to assure the student body that the PBT test is completely voluntary.
“I have addressed with the Public Safety staff my concern over students feeling like the PBT test is mandatory,” Maroletti said. “I was assured that it is not mandatory and the test will be presented to students in a voluntary manner. This is a sensitive issue and with that, it’s important for the voices of students to be heard.”
This change in Public Safety practice is hoped to assure that intoxicated students that need further medical attention are provided with that, while avoiding unnecessary treatment for students who are not at an unsafe level.
“If any students have any questions or would like to speak to someone about this issue, I encourage you to reach out to either Public Safety, the dean of students or SGA,” Marroletti said. “We will continue to advocate for students and express your concerns to the administration on important student issues.”