Alcohol amnesty pushed at Clemson

CLEMSON -- Clemson University students want the administration to adopt a Medical Alcohol Amnesty policy they say would give priority to protection of students' health and lives over punishing violations of university rules.

"This would just mean one less barrier to getting someone help," said Tom Richey, president of the graduate student body. "It would not tie the hands of the police."

Three Clemson fraternity members recently were charged with alcohol-related misdemeanors after a freshman died of alcohol poisoning during an off-campus party. The students' activities did not directly lead to the death of 18-year-old Benjamin Garrison Sprague, prosecutor Chrissy Adams said.

North Carolina medical examiners also found six of the students killed in a beach house fire last year had consumed alcohol. A Clemson student and six University of South Carolina students were killed in the fire at Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.

Clemson student leaders told the university's trustees Friday that an amnesty policy would encourage students to put saving a student's life and health first during an alcohol-related emergency.

Only university rules and discipline would be waived under such an amnesty. Students and university officials said they have no authority to exempt students from law enforcement or the courts.

Callie Boyd, vice president of the undergraduate student government, said Clemson's student government surveyed other universities and found similar policies in place, for example, at Harvard University in Boston, William and Mary University in Virginia, the University of Georgia, and Cornell University in New York.

Clemson board chairman Bill Hendrix said the alcohol policy is an administrative matter that will probably be left to President James Barker and his staff.

"While we are happy he shared his thoughts with us on that issue, the administration has not given us a recommendation on it yet," Hendrix said.

Gail DiSabatino, vice president for student affairs, said the proposed Medical Alcohol Amnesty policy is under review by her office. She said she expects some kind of policy to be approved.

"We are carefully trying to find the right policy. I'm meeting with the committee next week," DiSabatino said.

"The health and safety of our students is absolutely No. 1," she said. "We still need to treat the student in a way that they recognize they have harmed themselves. There will still need to be an intervention."

Boyd said the amnesty is much needed.

"Students often express concern over the university's response to emergency medical attention and alcohol. It's unfortunate we punish students who act responsibly."