Letter: We Need To Take Responsibility For Our Students

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This article was sent to us anonymously. 

Dear President Hemphill,

Since fall 2018, there have been multiple accounts of alcohol and/or drug-related crimes and deaths among our college students, whether living on or off-campus, that have been on local and national news. This type of attention not only reinforces the absurd notion that Radford is a “party school,” but it also diminishes our efforts and dedication to innovative education. 

“One such innovation is the merger of the Jefferson College of Health Sciences into Radford University,” the 2017 – 2018 annual report read. This merger is one example that is outstanding enough to place Radford into the future of education; yet, we have seen more articles on alcohol and/or drug-related crimes and death at Radford than the merger. Arguably, bad news tends to travel faster and longer than innovative educational practices, though, we believe we can take this ambition further. 

Simply commenting on college-related incidents and tragedies related to alcohol and drug use has not been effective. We need to take control of the negative attention and transform it into positive attention that reinforces our values and reflects our student-centered education. 

Simply commenting on college-related incidents and tragedies related to alcohol and drug use has not been effective.

The merger is a fantastic way for Radford to progress “forward as a pre-eminent provider of health sciences, healthcare and human services education,” as the annual report read. Healthcare education requires adapting and improving past studies and techniques for students to provide better quality care for patients.

The Radford University community is proposing that our policies related to drug and/or alcohol use reflect the same responsibilities expected from the healthcare education students. Currently. our policies are ineffective. In Section 4C of Radford’s Standards of Student Conduct, items 6 and 9 require our attention as students and educators to begin the process of decreasing the negative attention and the alcohol/drug violations. 

Drug overdoses and alcohol poisonings are so common because those under the influence are not aware they are in need of immediate medical care.

Item 6, “Amnesty for Help-Seeking,” provides amnesty to students who seek medical assistance for themselves or others if there have been incidents related to drug use or underage drinking. This compassion is necessary but incomplete. Our current policy, recently reviewed August of 2019, only aids the students who are thinking clearly, critically and/or responsibly.

Drug overdoses and alcohol poisonings are so common because those under the influence are not aware they are in need of immediate medical care. We need to change this perspective to take into consideration the students who are under the influence and therefore not thinking clearly, critically and/or responsibly. Arguably, those first-years who are able to think responsibly are not drinking underage or participating in illegal drugs at all.

We need to change this policy so that it no longer makes the students responsible for themselves while under the influence, nor their friends responsible for other students. We need to take responsibility for our students. Here are the actions we propose: 

  1. Change the school’s policies concerning amnesty and punishment of those caught partaking in illegal substances on campus. 
  2. Set longer health center hours for students who need medical attention.
  3. Have a licensed EMT accompanied by a Radford City police officer, if the situation requires law enforcement. Students need to be, firstly, cared for and not punished for their decisions on-campus. 
  4. Make available counseling for students who are drinking underage and/or using illegal drugs, instead of arresting and charging them.
  5. Open anonymous modes of communication for students to feel safe and comfortable reaching out for help for either themselves or others. 

Considering the recent collaboration of the University of Virginia, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Virginia State University and Virginia Tech in the fight against the opioid crisis, we feel it is time for Radford University to join the battle. We can start by changing the culture of punishment into a culture of care. As a university dedicated to the health sciences, we should first treat, not punish, substance abuse.

Authors’ individual editorials do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tartan staff members or Radford University.

Photo Credit: (Bundo Kim on Unsplash)