It is no secret students at the University of Wisconsin occasionally indulge in weekend, shall we say, revelries. Football gamedays, Halloween weekend and Thursday nights out are all part of the cultural landscape of Madison.
While these activities can be both fun and harmless, they can also have serious repercussions: It seems that every weekend a handful of UW students literally poison themselves with alcohol. Too often, students fall victim to the sort of violent crime often associated with the consumption of alcohol.
These harsh realities are augmented by the fact, wishing to avoid an underage drinking ticket, students who have been drinking are often reluctant to call law enforcement if they have been the victim of a violent crime, have witnessed criminal activity or if one of their friends is in need of medical attention.
In recent years the UW Police Department and the UW Division of Student Life have adopted a policy called “Responsible Action.” Under the policy, if a student is assaulted, witnesses a crime or realizes a friend is in need of medical treatment and calls for immediate assistance, he or she will be protected from disciplinary action with regards to alcohol consumption. We are glad UW realizes that in such situations, safety takes priority, and no student should be punished for underage drinking if they respond appropriately by alerting the authorities.
Today, however, this policy only applies to the university. While the Madison Police Department often honors the Responsible Action policy, there is no law protecting students who call 911 in the City of Madison from a drinking citation. For that matter, students at other universities in the state of Wisconsin face the same problem. Too many college students have been faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to do the right thing and call the police, knowing they might end up paying a hefty fine and working hours of community service.
Currently, state lawmakers are deliberating over a Responsible Action Bill created and lobbied for by Associated Students of Madison Legislative Affairs Committee and introduced by Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison. Last week, we met with ASM Legislative Affairs Chair Dan Statter to discuss the particulars of the bill. Statter explained that most states with Big Ten universities have already passed similar responsible action laws and, despite having a comparatively high rate of alcohol consumption, Wisconsin has so far neglected to pass such legislation.
We thoroughly approve of ASM Legislative Affair’s support of the Responsible Action Bill. We feel it is a very important piece of legislation for students statewide and urge its swift passage into law.
Students at universities in Wisconsin have died because their peers were reluctant to call the police, afraid of being cited for underage drinking. It is past time that state lawmakers take legislative action to assure students if they call law enforcement to report an assault or request emergency medical treatment for a friend who has alcohol poisoning, they will not be punished for the relatively minor offense of underage drinking.