February 9, 2012

Interfraternity Council and Student Assembly Unite to Promote Medical Amnesty Program

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Both the Interfraternity Council and the Student Assembly unanimously passed resolutions this week in support of a campaign to spread awareness about New York State’s Good Samaritan law.

The state’s medical amnesty program, which went into effect last July as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Good Samaritan law, allows New York residents to call 911 if there is an alcohol or drug-related emergency without being penalized, according to S.A. Vice President Adam Gitlin ’13. The law extends Cornell’s existing medical amnesty policy, giving students the same protection they have on campus in Collegetown and other off-campus locations, according to Gannett Health Services.

According to Gitlin, the law provides amnesty to all parties involved — the person calling, the person affected, any bystanders who witness the emergency — and protects all residents anywhere in New York State.

“Everyone born after 1968 [when 911 became the national emergency number] knows to call 911, but people still don’t, fearing legal repercussions,” said John Mueller ’13, undesignated at-large representative of the S.A. “Now, they don’t have to worry.”

Both the IFC and S.A. have previously attempted to spread awareness about medical amnesty, albeit separately. Gitlin said their combined effort highlights how strongly students feels about reducing emergencies resulting from high-risk drinking.

Gitlin said the two bodies’ current initiative aims to target off-campus drinking by distributing decals that encourage students to call 911 to fraternity houses and Collegetown residences. The pamphlets also inform them about medical amnesty, which student leaders said was necessary amid concerns of high-risk drinking.

“This year, we have seen a shift in drinking toward Collegetown annexes,” said Eric Silverberg ’14, president of Tau Epsilon Phi. “Parties are more difficult to control, but student safety is a constant.”

Mueller said that the decals are printed and distributed by Gannett Health Services in partnership with the S.A. as part of its larger health education plan. He cited Jennifer Austin, Gannett communications specialist, for her specific efforts to promote the decals on a larger scale.

“A lot of times when students would need a medical amnesty call is simply when they are roaming around Collegetown,” rather than being situated in a residence, Mueller said. He added that Gannett has already inserted the decals throughout many TCAT buses and hopes to expand the operation.

Mueller said that the decals may also be placed in Collegetown businesses and public areas.

Gannett’s “Do the Right Thing” posters —  which promote the medical amnesty program — can already be seen plastered around campus, appealing to students’ sense and moral obligation, Gitlin said.

Mueller said that Gannett is printing hundreds of decals that will be handed out at next week’s S.A. and IFC meetings. Fraternity presidents will collect handfuls of decals to give to their brothers living in Collegetown annexes, while the S.A.’s Student Health Task Force will be working with Collegetown landlords to dispense the decals throughout residential mailboxes, according to Mueller.

“Hopefully, there will be some duplication,” Mueller said, adding that the more people who receive the decals, the more effectively they will spread the message.

Chapter presidents said that there is no downside to advertising to ensure safety.

“As president of a house, our number one focus is on safety, including the safety of any person who comes into our frat,” said Itamar Niesvizky ’13, president of Delta Upsilon. “Whether there is questionably or definitely an issue of safety, there should be no deterrent to calling an ambulance.”

Chris Sanders ’13, IFC president, said that despite the severity of the issue, neither the IFC nor the S.A. is looking to punish any residence that neglects to put up the decal. Rather, they hope to raise awareness around campus in an attempt to decrease the likelihood of medical emergencies.

Gitlin repeated Sanders’ sentiments, and said he is optimistic about the initiative’s potential.

“Ultimately, if you walk into any Collegetown residence, I want you to see this decal so you know that the people who live there are responsible and aware of the law,” he said.

Niesvizky expressed high hopes for the initiative as well.

“I hope we can start a cultural change, so everyone will voluntarily put decals up in their own homes,” he said. “Maybe we can help other campuses as well.”

Original Author: Harrison Okin