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University of Arkansas rule change for discipline after drug-use emergencies, explained

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Nyssa Kruse | December 10, 2021 at 3:25 p.m.
Old Main on the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus is shown in this Aug. 30, 2014, file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo)

A University of Arkansas, Fayetteville policy change will remove the threat of discipline when students seek emergency medical help related to drug use.

What exactly does the policy do?

When students seek emergency medical attention, either for themselves or someone else, related to drug use or underage drinking, the policy states the university will not take disciplinary action against the students involved.

The policy represents an expansion of a rule put in place in 2014 that originally only covered alcohol use.

The new "protocol" -- the term preferred by the university, rather than "policy" -- applies only to students, not organizations.

But when a student organization is "hosting/housing an event where medical attention is sought for an overdosing guest or member, the organization's willingness to seek prompt medical attention" may be "a mitigating factor" when it comes to determining any sanction, the policy states. 

The policy also states witnesses providing information to the university related to "serious" conduct-policy violations may avoid formal discipline for "minor alcohol or drug related violations."

Will there be any repercussions for students in these cases?

The revised UA policy, known as Student Conduct Amnesty for Alcohol and Other Drugs, states that those seeking help -- and those needing help -- are to receive an "alternative resolution" rather than formal discipline for drug or alcohol possession.

The rule applies only to university discipline, not the University of Arkansas Police Department. 

However, state law shields underage drinkers from criminal prosecution for alcohol possession if they call for emergency medical help or need it, and another state law provides similar immunity, regardless of age, when medical help is sought after a drug overdose.

How did the policy change come about?

UA has not linked the policy change to any specific event, but rather said it came about after working with student government leaders on an expansion of an existing policy. Students have pushed for drugs to be covered since at least 2017.

However, the rule change does follow the death of Kevin Kennedy Ryan, 20, who died from alcohol and cocaine intoxication the day after St. Patrick's Day when he reportedly drank at a Fayetteville restaurant and the Kappa Alpha fraternity house where he lived.

Read more about the policy change and the circumstance of Ryan’s death from reporter Jaime Adame and go here to sign up for our education newsletter, Grade Point Arkansas.

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