November 29, 2012
Save that number in your phone right now. Hamilton College Emergency Medical Services are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We need to remind ourselves as a community that the EMTs are always an option without consequences. This is important to remember especially in light of the fact that this semester has seen some of the most terrifying student conduct in recent memory.
Despite countless emails from Dean of Students Nancy Thompson, frequent articles and editorials in The Spectator and what has seemed like endless discussion about alcohol in the college community (and even the surrounding area), there seems to be little or no change on this campus in terms of substance abuse on campus. Frequent claims of “I would never do that” or “that would never happen to me,” flutter around campus as if every student is untouchable. To tell the truth, this campus has been blessed with a combination of luck and an incredibly well-trained EMT team.
According to both Hamilton policy and, as of the passing of last year’s 911 Good Samaritan Bill into New York State law, there are no legal repercussions when students call the EMTs for a friend or classmate in trouble. Thompson’s latest e-mail entitled “Seeking Help” reminds students, “We never want you to hesitate to call for help out of fear of consequences. When students seek medical assistance for themselves or a friend, our focus is not on sanctioning those involved, but on making sure that this type of event doesn’t happen again.”
But there is only so much that everyone can say. The onus of the effort to change our culture will always lie with the students. Ultimately, it will not even be enough to improve communication between students and EMTs. If students continue this pattern of dangerous behaviors, then no amount of improved communication will shift the culture. It will take something more concrete; it will take the form of either reform or tragedy.
At the heart of every conversation we have had about alcohol on campus is the unspoken fear of a student death. Other schools have suffered through the loss of students due to alcohol and alcohol-related incidents. Only several weeks ago, Bates College lost a student due to injuries incurred while under the influence of alcohol. The possibility is not as far removed as we would like to think.
We need to open up campus-wide discussion again, not confining the dialogue to vandalism or EMT calls, but critically tackling the dangerous alcohol on campus at its source. We need to confront the problem head-on before it is too late. We don’t want to publish any student obituaries.