Lifeline Law endorsed

KATIE GOODRICH | Asst. News Editor

Butler’s Student Government Association is lobbying for proposed amendments to the Indiana Lifeline Law.

SGA voted on a resolution to support the bill that is currently in Indiana’s House of Representatives. If voted on this session, the bill could go into effect by July 1, 2014.

The bill expands protection and grants more immunity to underage individuals in potentially dangerous situations.

Currently, the Lifeline Law only protects people who calls on behalf of someone who needs medical attention. The caller must stay on the line, give authorities his or her full name, and be fully compliant, SGA President Craig Fisher said.

For instance, someone who is underage and drinking can call on behalf of his or her friend, who has had too much to drink. The caller would not be prosecuted for underage drinking.

The amendment would also protect the person who needs medical attention and someone who witnessed or was a victim of a crime.

It was important to hear from Butler students on this issue, due to its pertinence to college students, Fisher said.

Every campus organization and residence has a representative in the assembly, so the entire student body is represented, Fisher said.

“Any action taken by the student assembly can be understood as an act of the entire student body,” Fisher said. “When resolutions of support are adopted, it is the strongest voice to be heard on this campus.”

The Council on Presidential Affairs proposed the bill. CPA focuses on hearing student concerns.

“I always think that the voice is a lot stronger if it is something that comes from students,” Fisher said. “(The resolution to support the amendments to the Indiana Lifeline Law) being adopted unanimously is a strong testament to how students feel.”

The Butler University Police Department acts in accordance with the Lifeline Law, said Andrew Ryan, assistant chief of police.

“If a person is underage and intoxicated and they call BUPD because of a medical emergency or the physical well-being of another person, we will not arrest that individual,” Ryan said. “We, as a department of the institution, have been practicing that philosophy before it was a law.”

BUPD would have to follow any amendments made to the Lifeline Law, Ryan said.

Being a part of a university, BUPD has more options than other police departments, Ryan said.

“We have discretion,” Ryan said. “We have the option to formally arrest someone or refer them to student affairs for conduct review. In most cases, we would refer them.”

While the proposed bill would provide legal protection, it would infringe on what Student Affairs can do, Fisher said.

“Student Affairs, especially, still wants to make sure that the right comes out of all of these situations,” Fisher said.

Fisher said the bill is especially important for college students.

“While ideally, we would have a system in place that corrects all underage drinking that removes the influence and danger altogether,” Fisher said, “the reality is that we haven’t found that solution yet. Until we find that, we need to collectively step up our care.”

Lily Pickett, a freshman SGA representative, said she thinks the amendment would help make Butler safer.

“The SGA is supposed to represent the student body and represent the best possible environment for students,” Pickett said.

The amendment would remove another fear of calling the police, Fisher said.

“In order to have each other’s backs (as students), we need to make sure that those fears aren’t keeping us from taking care of our classmates when they really need it,” Fisher said. “I think too many students are still having questions about, ‘Should I call and what’s going to happen to me.’”

Pickett said some students still have questions about the Lifeline Law.

“I think a lot of students are very uninformed about it because the proposed amendment to the law has not had as much publicity as the law itself did,” Pickett said.

While there are still questions, BUPD has seen a change, Ryan said.

“I think people are probably more apt to call in general because of Lifeline Law, whether they have been drinking or not,” Ryan said. “(The Lifeline Law) has made people more aware of dangers of being intoxicated and what could potentially happen.”

This amendment could change the way students react to potentially life-threatening situations, Fisher said.

“The more of those barriers we remove, the more lives we are going to save, not just for Butler students, but for students in the entire state,” Fisher said.

Pickett said she thinks the SGA was right to support the proposed amendment.

“I think the amendment and this law are both for the benefit and safety of the students,” Pickett said. “For SGA to support the law and the proposed amendment, they are supporting our students’ health.”