MSA seeks to amend social host ordinance

The student group hopes to have a medical amnesty provision added to the ordinance.

Luke Feuerherm

Weeks after voting down a resolution to support the social host ordinance, which was approved by the City Council on Feb. 12, MSA will attempt to use the ordinance to provide medical amnesty to students. Medical amnesty offers protection to people illegally using alcohol or drugs who call 911 on behalf of others who are suffering from alcohol or drug-related illness. âÄúWeâÄôre not trying to condone binge drinking,âÄù said MSA member Martin Cech. âÄúItâÄôs reducing the harm if someone chooses to.âÄù MSA passed two medical amnesty resolutions Tuesday, which reflect the two approaches they are taking on this issue. The first is to amend the student code of conduct and protect students from University of Minnesota repercussions, Cech said. The second approach is to appeal to the Minneapolis City Council to provide legal protection to students. Going forward, MSA representatives will now use the two resolutions in discussions with University administration and City Council members, said MSA member Marty Chorzempa. After passing in an MSA forum, the resolutions speak for the entire student body. âÄúIt seems sensible to me,âÄù said Jerry Rinehart, University vice provost of student affairs. âÄúWaiving [the repercussions in the student code of conduct] is not a very big thing.âÄù Both MSA and Boynton Health Service representatives cited the same survey when asked about medical amnesty. In the survey, students were asked how likely they would be to call 911 if someone passed out due to drug or alcohol use and could not be woken up. The 2007 survey reported that 54 percent of students said they would be âÄúvery likelyâÄù to call police. âÄúWe donâÄôt know if itâÄôs because they are worried about getting into trouble,âÄù said Boynton Public Health and Marketing Director David Golden. âÄúI donâÄôt know if amnesty is the answer. We donâÄôt know if it will improve the rate at which people will call, we just know we want people to call 911 when theyâÄôve got this kind of setup. Unconscious and not able to wake them up is the definition of calling 911.âÄù âÄúWe want to take the 50 percent of students who said they were very likely to call the police and turn that into 100,âÄù said MSA member Sarah Shook. The University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview was asked about the frequency of alcohol-related emergency room trips among students and their success rates. âÄúI would say on an average weekend we just see two or three [alcohol-related emergencies],âÄù said Juli Thomas, director of emergency services at Fairview. âÄúThe likelihood, if they can get to the ER âÄî I canâÄôt say would be 100 percent âÄî but 99 percent they would survive.âÄù The resolutions were modeled after medical amnesty resolutions passed at the University of Colorado-Boulder. ColoradoâÄôs resolution was in reaction to two alcohol-related deaths that occurred because 911 was not called, Shook said. âÄúAs far as medical amnesty, itâÄôs sort of a hot topic nationwide,âÄù said University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner. âÄúA lot of groups and universities are talking about it. In the end, itâÄôs not going to affect us a whole lot.âÄù Miner said UMPD sees one case a week on average where someone needs to be hospitalized or taken to a detox facility for alcohol-related illness. âÄúWhat weâÄôre looking for is going for the home run,âÄù said Zachary Tauer, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, who worked with MSA in creating the resolution. âÄúThe person who calls, the person who is sick and the organization or host, but weâÄôre willing to work toward a middle ground.âÄù MSAâÄôs resolutions would only secure amnesty for the social host, not the minor who was drinking under age, Shook said. âÄúIt is a way to get our foot in the door.âÄù âÄúUltimately what we want is a culture in which getting blasted or putting yourself in medical danger isnâÄôt desirable,âÄù Rinehart said.