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Columbia Spectator Staff

Columbia has joined the rest of the Ivy League in recognizing when its students are good Samaritans. A new policy makes official a long-followed practice: students who call emergency medical services when in violation of the school's drug or alcohol policy will not be penalized. The policy was passed unanimously in both the Columbia College and Engineering Student Councils last December, but was not officially recognized until last week, when it was entered into the Guide to Living. Because the rule was unofficial until the start of this academic year, it was not heavily publicized, endangering more students when they are drinking or using drugs, said Katharine Celentano, GS and president of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. "If somebody makes the life-saving decision to call for help, they're not going to get in trouble for trying to save that life," Celentano said. Celentano and Logan Donovan, SEAS '13 and ESC VP for Policy, drafted the language of the policy this summer with Cristen Kromm, assistant dean for community development and residential programs. Columbia is the last school in the Ivy League to instate such a policy. The official wording states that "the student who receives medical assistance, the student who reported the medical emergency, others involved, or the group/organization that actively seeks assistance" will not be punished for breaking the alcohol or drug policy. In a joint statement, Kromm and Celentano wrote that the Division of Student Affairs hopes to continue "to partner with student leaders to educate the community about the policy." The policy has long been in sync with the procedure followed by Columbia University Emergency Medical Services, commonly known as CAVA, so having it set in stone will allow CU-EMS volunteers to proceed as usual. "It has always been CU-EMS' practice to only treat and transport—we have never been involved in the disciplinary aspect of substance abuse," said Alex Harstrick, CC '12 and director of CU-EMS. "We hope that now having this policy on paper will make students feel more comfortable reaching out to us, and hopefully as a result, the school will be a safer place." Donovan said, "It's important in the first place that people don't have a disciplinary consequence, but it's equally important people know that, or otherwise they're not going to call." "The fact that the administration was willing to listen to our concerns and implement it is a really crucial step," said Aki Terasaki, CC '12 and CCSC president. "Now that it's actually in the Guide to Living I would hope that students take it more seriously perhaps—that people will be responsible and report health and safety issues." Students said the policy would encourage them not to hesitate to reach out for medical assistance. For Matt Levine, CC '15, there were times in high school when "if I knew that I could call someone and not get in trouble, I definitely would have called." Fernando Luo, SEAS '13, said that he had seen his friends from other schools be more responsible due to a Good Samaritan policy. "Before I would probably just call CAVA if I really had to, but now I'd be more likely to call CAVA," he said. Student leaders said they believe that eliminating the threat of discipline makes this policy an effective one. "None of that is going on their record—it's completely separate from the disciplinary process," Donovan said. "At the end of the day, our goal is to help save people's lives. I know friends who really should have gotten medical attention but because they were worried about punishment, they didn't seek it out," Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein, CC '12 and a member of SSDP, said. "This makes clear that you won't face any sort of punishment for seeking medical attention." Emma Stein and Henry Willson contributed reporting.

Good Samaritan policy SSDP