As a current student at the University of Tennessee, and an executive board member for the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, I have witnessed firsthand the outcomes of ineffective drug and alcohol policies implemented by the university. Because of this, student’s safety is jeopardized when weighing the possible decisions for someone who has either overdosed or is over intoxicated. 

Students have become hesitant to contact Knoxville police in fear that a charge will come with being a supportive bystander. Realistically, reforming these weakly structured policies would not only be easy to do, but would make this college campus a much safer environment for both students and faculty. Failure to implement safe and realistic drug and alcohol policy has been a powerful catalyst behind the overall declining trust students have in the university’s authority to control the social aspects of the physical campus.

If you’ve ever walked down Cumberland Avenue on either a Friday or Saturday night, I’m certain that you’ve seen a plethora of intoxicated students slurring their words and recklessly stumbling both to and from the bars. Unfortunately, not all students make it back safely. Because of these events, the university has implemented their version of a “Good Samaritan Law.” The biggest problem with this “law” is that many students are either poorly informed by the university, or even just have never been taught. Although this law sounds helpful for all students, it’s important to read between the lines. Just like every contract or law written, it’s important to read between the lines. 

Teresa Simpson, an author for tripsavvy, breaks down all the fine print that students like myself could be unaware of regarding the Good Samaritan Law. The fine print of this law goes on to say, “The situation must be a potential life-threating emergency, and the care provided must be necessary to treat the emergency.” It’s the little things like this that I question when put in a situation of whether or not to make the call to emergency services for help. It’s always a fear of mine that later that week or month, a university police officer will come up and issue me some sort of citation or ticket because the reason I called emergency services for wasn’t “life-threating.”

As a junior at the University of Tennessee, I personally question these laws in fear of being personally affected and even possibly charged if the police claim the situation is not “life threating.” 

Participating in many events involving alcohol, I have had plenty of times where a decision has had to be made regarding the safety of a student. In almost every case, my friends and I have been worried about legal repercussions coming back on us for what should be an instinct decision. The decision to call for help in hopes to prevent a student from further injury should not have to be made keeping my personal reputation as risk. 

This policy, as well as many others, are putting students at risk as well as the university’s reputation. I am certain that reforming and altering these policies to make them safer for students will lower the risk of injury and boost the university’s reputation. 

As you can see, failure by the university to restructure their current drug and alcohol policies has been and will continue to harm both the reputation of the school as well as the students. The board of members at the University of Tennessee Knoxville need to sit down with the Knoxville police department, as well as some of the student leaders to provide diversified feedback to ultimately form a much better and newer policy. 

With all three groups around a table input from what the school wants will be negotiated and reformed to benefit the city as a whole. If students don’t feel that their safety on campus is being prioritized than it will affect the overall well-being of each individual student. 

Colter Mahon is a sophomore in the business exploratory program and can be reached at cmahon1@vols.utk.edu

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