Sanctuary for the sloshed

Headaches. Vomiting. Hangovers. The fallout from a night of excessive drinking is often punishment enough.

Soon, Northeastern might be getting the message.

This month, a committee of students, faculty and staff will review Northeastern’s Code of Student Conduct.

One intriguing proposal put forth is one granting amnesty to intoxicated underage students who require medical attention, essentially removing judicial affairs from the equation.

Should this proposal be accepted, it would provide an approach not only putting the safety of students first and foremost, but also allowing the university to finally attack the underage drinking problem from a realistic vantage point.

All the afterHOURS nacho specials and NUPD officers in the world aren’t going to curtail underage drinking, be it in residence halls or Mission Hill parties.

Rather than play Bad Cop, Northeastern may as well extend an olive branch or two.

Make no mistake, accepting such a measure would be a clear concession from the administration essentially allowing freshmen to drink themselves to the gurney and requiring the university to turn a blind eye. And what about the partiers who don’t require medical attention? If they are to receive full punishment for holding their liquor better, what message does that send? These are the likely questions from those who might theoretically oppose the proposal, believing the administration will become soft on underage drinking.

The measure seems to foreshadow Northeastern issuing a carte blanche to underage students to drink. But seriously, how many students consider drinking themselves to a Beth Israel stomach pump to be glorious freedom? Nobody in his or her right mind purposely drinks to the point of alcohol poisoning solely because he or she can.

In essence, the decision wisely puts less emphasis on punishment and more on the safety of the students. There are, after all, no facts and figures to account for underage students forced to find alternative means of medical attention when alcohol wins a Friday-night battle by knockout.

But how often do students risk their own health and safety to avoid facing the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution? If it happens once, it’s too often, and it reflects a need for the university to step in and remove the warden’s cap.

Obviously, the university pulling the “ignorance is bliss” routine would be completely irresponsible. But with the measure in its infancy stages, now is the time to shape it into a rational policy encouraging safety and trust on the university’s part, but also discouraging such behavior from becoming a full-time thing.

Should parents or guardians be notified? Should financial aid or scholarships be affected? Will the measure inspire underage drinkers to seek medical attention even when it is unnecessary in order to avoid legal confrontation? These are the questions to be faced by the revision committee – questions without easy answers. But the backbone of the policy is in place, and the intentions, at least in the early stages, are good.

The proposal does more than grant immunity to underage drinkers who take matters a bit far; it would establish a mutual respect and understanding between the university and its students, an understanding all too often missing when dealing with the matter of underage drinking.

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