A freshman stumbles into the lobby of Piano Row one October night, too drunk to know much of what is going on. She just wants to sleep.
As she is about to pass out, a concerned resident assistant spots her and calls for help. Hours later, the student — who spoke on the condition of anonimity — woke up in the hospital with a sense of fear and little recollection of last night’s events. “Honestly, I don’t remember leaving the party. I just remember waking up in the hospital,” the student said.
The student was one of the 14 on-campus residents in the fall of 2011 semester hospitalized for heavy drinking. Over the past three years, the number of students transported to the hospital due to intoxication has increased, according to David Haden, associate dean and director of housing and residence life. Haden said according to statistics, in fall of 2009, there were six hospital transports, and 11 in the fall of 2010.
According to Haden, the rise is due to the increase in the number of students living on campus. In fall of 2009, the Paramount was not yet open, nor was the third floor of the Colonial, said Haden.
Out of the 14 hospital transports in fall of 2011, the statistics show 10 of the transported students were granted medical amnesty, a policy that the college offers to students who seek help when someone may be in danger because of an alcohol or other drug violation.
“I do believe the Medical Amnesty policy has encouraged students to seek help for themselves and their friends,” Haden said, “The majority of the students who were transported in fall 2011 were covered by the Medical Amnesty policy.”
Under this policy, according to the Emerson College 2011-2012 Undergraduate Student Handbook, students who seek medical help for themselves or others will not face a disciplinary fine or disciplinary probation, and the student who had medical assistance sought for them will also not face said consequences. However, the parents will still be notified and the student will be referred to meet with the Counseling Center and a wellness educator.
If the Medical Amnesty policy does not apply to the situation, the first violation will result in a censure, which is “a written warning placed in the student’s file,” noting that the student has violated the college policy. There will also be a required $50 fine, an Alcohol and Other Drug educational assignment, and a parent notification. Repeated violations will increase the degree of consequences.
The anonymous student said she was just going out to have a good time with some friends-- a couple of drinks here and there. She said she did not drink alcohol with the intention of getting drunk.
“I made a mistake and learned from it,” the student said.
The Center for Health and Wellness offers two programs for students who have been involved with alcohol and who wish to seek help or information about alcohol use. The program CHOICES, started in 2006, is a two-hour course that helps students understand the risks of alcohol and its effect on college life. The other program, eCHECKUP—an adaptation of an older program that was new to campus in fall of 2011—is an online assessment of alcohol knowledge in addition to a one-on-one meeting with, Christopher Chernicki, the coordinator of Wellness Education.
“If you are educated about the risks involved in a situation, you are generally better equipped to make safer and healthier decisions,” said Chernicki.
According to Scott Bornstein, deputy chief of the Emerson College Police Department, student intoxication and alcohol poisoning is a problem that every college faces. Bornstein said he believes that the increase in hospital transports is not only due to the Medical Amnesty program, but also because Resident Assistants and security have been better trained in noticing and reacting to intoxicated related illnesses.
“When you are intoxicated, you become less aware,” said Bornstein, “you are more susceptible to become a victim.”
The deputy chief noted that this is a major safety issue when living on an urban campus.
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