Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Op-ed: The importance of the new Responsible Action Protocol

When I was the president of a fraternity, my biggest fear was someone getting hurt at a party. If anyone were to be assaulted, transported or even die at an event, I don’t know how I could live with myself. The thought gave me nightmares immediately after I was elected. I didn’t know how I could handle the stress. The anxiety I had was overwhelming. I stayed sober at most of our parties and when I didn’t, I became the problem – drinking enough so I would forget about worrying.

There were a number of scary stories in the media and even on our campus of students requiring medical attention but not immediately getting the treatment they need. I wanted to understand why that happened and the overall response was that “one drunk person isn’t worth an organization facing sanctions.” That’s a vile statement. Just think about it for a second. People would refuse calling the paramedics because they were concerned about the safety of their student organization.

Let’s be clear – people’s safety at a party should be of the utmost importance, the top priority.

So, when I saw this disturbing trend, I went to Tom Florczak, the former president of the Interfraternity Council and the University to discuss how we could make a difference. Then the self-proclaimed “policy wonk” Naomi Zeigler got involved. We, among many others, spent countless hours trying to come up with a solution.

American University had a Good Samaritan Policy which was well known on an individual basis. The policy was meant to prevent students from hesitating to get help for someone who needs it. Similar to the hesitation that hosts of parties have felt in the past, other individuals have felt reluctant to call the police during emergencies.

The policy made making that call easier. While there are certain consequences, the most important outcome was that the person who required medical attention received it. However, this great policy only gave clear instructions to individuals, not organizations as a whole.

The updated Medical Transport policy now covers organizations. Based on a new provision in the University Policy, organizations, whether Greek affiliated or not, no longer have to balance the choice between getting someone help and saving an organization from potential conduct charges. While an ambulance arriving could put a damper on a party, a party ending early is a lot better than a funeral the next week.

Every time someone is on the verge of unconsciousness or being incoherent, that individual should receive medical treatment. Whether that means calling an ambulance, an Uber or having someone sober drive them, at that point, getting them help should no longer be a question of “if” but of “how.” This statement sounds so stupid and obvious but it has to be said because it hasn’t always worked that way.

Even though I no longer run the organization I’m a part of, I still worry about what could happen. It is alarming that many people still prioritize their organizations above lives. I know that I couldn't care less about the organization that I was meant to lead if it came down to someone else’s life being in jeopardy. I know not everyone thinks this way. So for those people that don’t, hopefully this new provision will help sway your decisions in the future. Potential disciplinary action never got in the way of me making the safe decision, but it has for others. Make the call. It could save someone’s life.

Mike Brest is a junior in the School of Communications and the former President of Beta Theta Pi.

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