Butler University’s Student Government Association will decide this afternoon whether to support a bill currently making its way through the Indiana General Assembly.
The bill would protect minors from criminal charges involving alcohol consumption and will move to the House of Representatives after unanimously passing the Indiana Senate.
Indiana Lifeline Law, Senate
Bill 274, provides immunity for the crimes of public intoxication, minor possession, minor consumption and minor transportation of alcohol if minors are seeking medical assistance through law enforcement.
SGA President Al Carroll is joining student government associations at Purdue University, Indiana University, University of Southern Indiana and Ball State University in a coalition supporting the bill.
“It’s important for us to make note of what’s going on in the state,” Carroll said.
SGA representatives will vote on a resolution supporting the Indiana Lifeline Law this afternoon in assembly.
“(The resolution) will be sent to the Indiana House of Representatives in hopes of having an impact,” Carroll said.
Carroll said he sees first hand as a residence assistant that Butler students take advantage of seeking help if they need it.
“I hope people continue to find help and feel more secure in doing so because of this,” Carroll said.
Ben Hunter, chief of staff and executive director of public safety, said this is already a practice at the university.
“We have an option, unlike city police, to report to student affairs and have the student go through that process, which leaves no criminal offense on the student’s record,” Hunter said.
BUPD officers are obligated under the Clery Act to report any criminal activity on the campus, but that doesn’t affect the student, Hunter said.
“I can’t ignore alcohol consumption because the law is the law, but we do have discretion under the Indiana code,” Hunter said.
This practice is reflected in the 2010 Comprehensive Combined Annual Security Report and Annual Fire Safety Report. During that year, there were 274 total liquor law violations referred for disciplinary action and 2 liquor law arrests.
“Getting the student help by teaming up with student affairs is the best model,” Hunter said.
Students may be afraid of disciplinary actions that surround these instances, but Hunter said that is the last thing the student should worry about.
“Someone dying is a grieving process for the institution,” Hunter said. “I’d rather you’d just call us.”
Hunter said he can’t say how the passing of the bill and the support of SGA will affect how students make the call in a moment of need.
“Do I hope it will help? You bet,” Hunter said. “But in the moment, it’s hard to do the right thing.”
Irene Stevens, dean of student life, said that the increase in high-risk drinking is a concern for university officials.
“We’ve seen an increase in the past three years,” Stevens said. “In the fall term we had 19 students go to the hospital when we used to have about nine a year.”
Stevens said what Butler currently does is similar to what the bill is stating.
“We use an educational approach depending on the severity of the violation,” Stevens said.
Students who face alcohol violations are subject to online alcohol teaching sessions, essay writing, counseling or seminars, depending on the severity of the violation, Stevens said.
Students who are arrested or have faced multiple sanctions can be put on conduct probation, meaning he or she would not be in good standing in the university.
University officials are currently reevaluating their system to implement new practices and improve current ones, Stevens said.
“We had an alcohol task force evaluate and make recommendations for things we can do differently,” Stevens said. “So hopefully next year it will be different in education, alcohol policy and better choices.”
Purdue Student Body President Brett Highley said that the support of this law will bring a positive effect on the personal safety and well-being of students.
“It is important to realize that the effects of this law will not only result in more young adults seeking medical attention when it is needed,” Highley said. “This increase will also lead to more targeted educational efforts to serve as an earlier intervention for those individuals who need it most before irresponsible drinking patterns become habitual.”
The work continues as student leaders prepare for the bill to appear in the House.
“In the coming weeks we will continue to meet with legislators to articulate the challenges our communities face dealing with high-risk drinking practices and demonstrate that we have responded with a sound policy,” Highley said.