On Wednesday, November 12, Eagle EMS hosted a discussion to address concerns, questions and frustrations regarding how alcohol incidents at Boston College are handled. The event was moderated by students Chris Karousatos and Kayla Authelet, both members of Eagle EMS, and was intended “to increase transparency and increase awareness about the processes that are involved during an incident involving alcohol."
BC has high numbers of alcohol-related transports when compared to schools of similar size. This year, BC has already had 103 transports, or roughly an average of 10 per weekend. The event was meant to clarify what happens after a student has become intoxicated to the point of needing assistance.
The panel included BCPD Officer Dina Smith, Eagle EMT Kristen DiBlasi ’15, Monica St. Louis from the Office of Student Conduct, and Robyn Priest from the Office of Health Promotion. They each spoke in the order of their involvement during the entire process, from the first call to possible discipline and follow up.
BCPD is dispatched immediately after a 911 call. They evaluate the patient as soon as they arrive, which may be before or at the same time as the EMTs. “We see [the student] as a patient first,” Officer Smith said. Once the officer has completed his role in responding, he writes a report, which is passed on to his superiors in the department and is then sent to the dean's office.
The EMTs are the next people involved in the process. They take whatever information BCPD gives them and evaluate the patient based on three important questions: how much he or she had to drink, the time he or she started drinking, and when he or she stopped drinking. The last question is helpful in determining how much more intoxicated the student may become, which can influence whether the student will be transported to the infirmary or to the hospital.
The Office of Student Conduct receives the report from BCPD after the incident has taken place. Ms. St. Louis spoke about the difference between help-seeking reports and other alcohol transports, which are two very different processes. While all students, even those involved in help-seeking situations, have to come in to the dean's office for a conversation, Ms. St. Louis reminded attendees that “we want to encourage students to seek help for their friends, so we don’t put them into the conduct system.”
“Even for students who were involved in a help-seeking incident, there is still a lot to process, so we help them process that experience,” said Ms. St. Louis.
For students who are a part of the conduct process, the actions taken by the university and any consequences vary widely depending on the circumstances and the student’s history (for example, number of previous transports, other disciplinary infractions, etc.).
Many students, especially first-time offenders, are then referred to the Office of Health Promotion. The nature of the incident influences which program they are referred to. Any student who has been to the hospital is required to complete BASICS (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students), which consists of three one-hour sessions that help the student evaluate his or her drinking and come up with harm reduction strategies. Students who have been to the infirmary may only need to complete CHOICES, a one-time 90-minute class led by Health Coaches. For students who plan to continue drinking, these programs aim to instill safe drinking practices like counting drinks and monitoring the content of mixed drinks.
For some students there are more extensive sanctions than a referral to the OHP. This is largely determined by the nature of the incident and the student’s history, but it can include disciplinary or university probation, and in some very extreme cases, suspension from the university.
Students also asked questions about the process, including BC’s role in off-campus incidents when Boston Police are involved. While BCPD can respond as backup to some calls near campus, those calls are technically in the domain of Newton and Boston Police. However, there are people in the Dean's Office and the Office of Residential Life that work with off-campus students and can aid them as they deal with Boston Police.
All parties involved, from BCPD and Eagle EMS to the deans and counselors from the OHP, are dedicated to keeping students safe and reducing the number of alcohol transports on campus.