Yale announced on Thursday a new medical emergency policy that will protect students from being charged with alcohol and drug violations when seeking medical help in emergencies. The previous language protected students only against alcohol violations.
The new language expands the protections guaranteed under the policy, stipulating that students “will not be charged by the Yale College Executive Committee with alcohol or other drug violations” in such emergency situations, “but may have to complete counseling, educational or training programs within an agreed upon time frame.”
Riley Tillitt ’19 — president of the Yale chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, whose organization pushed for the change in policy — hailed the policy update as an important step toward improving student safety.
“This policy change is a long time coming and Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Yale is glad that the administration is prioritizing safety before discipline,” Tillitt said. “It is important that Yale uses its prominence to show that harm reduction is the most effective way to save lives, not draconian punishments for nonviolent behavior.”
Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar said the process to amend the rule included reexamining the policy’s goals, gathering input from everyone it affects — particularly students — and ensuring that members of the Yale community can easily find the information.
Yale students interviewed expressed support for the new approach.
“This policy will make campus safer because students will be more inclined to find help for friends who might be in danger,” Emily Slaughter ’21 said.
Concerns about Yale’s previous policy emerged during first-year orientation this August, said Mary Clare McMahon ’21. Several students raised questions about the rule, she said, which seemed to simultaneously protect students who are dangerously intoxicated and endanger students in risky, drug-related situations.
Bessie Bauman ’21, a representative on the Ezra Stiles Freshman Class Council, expressed concern that the new policy might create an inconsistency between the way Yale students and New Haven residents are treated when it comes to drugs. But, ultimately, she said she is in favor of the policy.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy will continue to push for change in the University’s drug policy, according to Tillitt.
“We hope that the administration will similarly support other policy changes that prioritize harm reduction, such as expanding the meager quantity of drug education for first-year students,” Tillitt explained.
Yale adopted its previous Medical Emergency Policy in 2014.
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