While USF should be commended for its move in deciding to provide amnesty from academic reprimand to those who report overdoses of illegal substances, the new policy is likely too narrow in scope to have any real impact.
The policy, which provides amnesty both to those who call in the overdose as well as those who may be in a situation of medical danger, only applies to incidents that take place on campus.
Yet the majority of student life on a still largely commuter campus such as USF takes place off campus, and much of the drinking and drug use that results in dangerous situations takes place off campus.
According to the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention, freshmen students, who at USF are required to live on campus, face an elevated risk of drug and alcohol abuse. But while this added risk factor makes perhaps on-campus residents the target population for this policy, the policy should be widespread in nature if it attempts to combat a problem that has very real consequences. According to a Fox News article from 2008, 83 of the 157 college students who died over a seven-year period from alcohol poisoning were under 21 years old.
Dean for Students Michael Freeman said the university does not typically hear of incidents that do not occur off campus and while that is likely the rationale behind not extending the policy to incidents off campus, by limiting the policy to on-campus occurrences, the fear of facing legal or academic consequences that prevents people from calling in overdoses that could potentially be life-threatening is not addressed for the majority of incidents.
As each incident is being reviewed by Freeman, thus providing a built-in check and balance system, the new policy should not be so constrictive to begin with if it aims to be effective in preventing lethal overdoses. The policy is a step in the right direction, but a larger leap is needed.