Drug and Alcohol Policies: Where to from Here?

NYU Shanghai's vague "Good Samaritan Policy" towards drug use can create more problems for students than it solves.

NYU Shanghai’s current drug and alcohol policies have received a C (70/100) in the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Gradebook, indicating that the university “does not have very harsh nor very fair and positive sanctions. [NYU Shanghai] needs improvement,” due to the circumstantial nature of consequences and its vague Good Samaritan Policy, which would allow students to report others’ medical emergencies due to drug and alcohol use without penalty.

The gradebook is a simple set of questions that function as a scoring rubric, which can be used to assess whether or not a school’s drug and alcohol sanctions are more focused on health and education, or punishment. These questions not only provide an assessment, but can help institutions identify areas of improvement in their drug and alcohol policies.

NYU Shanghai’s policies are largely case by case. We covered what the grade was in the SSDP news brief, but wanted to unpack what the grade means here.

It is important for us to differentiate that our academic community policies are separate from those of local law. In some instances, it may be impossible for the school to shield us from legal consequence, but it should strive at all times to operate in our best interest. Those interests aren’t served by probation periods and punitive responses to drug and alcohol use, they are served by providing students tools and responses that focus on each individual’s health, knowledge, and choice.

NYU Shanghai SSDP in no way asking this institution to do something that it is not legally permitted to do. In fact, we hope to partner with the campus in ways that help people better understand the legal consequences of drug possession and use. We understand that by having case by case policies, NYU Shanghai may be able to act in our best interests. Or, maybe not. These decisions have not been transparent enough to us so far.

The most straight-forward solution is to have explicitly mentioned consequences for various drug-related scenarios that might arise on campus. For X offense with Y substance, Z will be the result. This certainly will not always be possible, but we should advocate for more specific understandings of university decision-making mechanisms and logic.

In addition to this, educational sessions about Chinese law in relation to drug and alcohol use should be options for students to attend. It can be difficult to figure out what “getting caught” with an illicit substance or being under the influence means in Shanghai. Even for students who don’t foresee running into these questions, being informed empowers students to make better decisions. That isn’t to say that information sessions stop drug use, or that “less = better,” but being informed makes you less likely to end up in a situation you didn’t anticipate.

As a community, we should have plans in place for any overdose or alcohol poisoning situation, starting with any present bystanders. That means institution officials and students need to work together to understand when these situations are most likely to arise, and what actions should be taken by those present, regardless of whether it occurs on or off campus. Ambulances aren’t always time-effective in emergencies — should students be advised to get a taxi with their friend and take them immediately to a medical center, notifying Student Life on the way? Should they call first and wait for someone to show up? If calling an ambulance, is it better to say “suspected opioid overdose” or “unexplained respiratory failure?”

Along with this larger community planning process, steps should be taken to expand our Health and Wellness Center’s cultural competency as it pertains to drug use, so that students do not face stigma as a barrier to their health services. In order to provide the best care for all on campus, our H&W Center should be equipped with a buffet of alternatives to substance use, as well as in-depth resources about the health risks of different drugs, and the best ways to mitigate those risks (beyond sobriety). For instance, when snorting a substance in a group setting, you can use a separate straw or bill in order to reduce the risk of transmitting Hepatitis C. If you are sharing your preferred snorting device, rinsing your nostrils before and after snorting (also known as railing) can reduce irritation, which results in lower transmission risk.

Finally, we at NYU Shanghai must create an environment that centers student health and well-being. As it stands, students are without the ability to call for help in the case of medical emergency without fear of repercussion, and thus the above-mentioned environment may never be conceived. While NYU Shanghai SSDP understands the limits of our demands within the context of local law, NYU Shanghai must expand its Good Samaritan policy to the best of its ability and expose the boundaries of the policy’s reach. As it stands, the “case-by-case Good Samaritan policy,” which we share with NYU New York, does about as much good as no Good Samaritan policy at all. The policy tells us that while student health will be at the forefront of administration concern, “the University reserves the right to address any associated acts that compromise the well-being of the community and its members.”

Now is the time for NYU Shanghai as a community to decide what consequences for drugs and alcohol should look like, what actually serves us best as a community. Good Samaritan protections should be a right, not only a possibility. We should be able to seek help for another person who has overdosed, without fear of repercussions. Circumstantial policies leave us vulnerable. We must demand that our institution provide us these protections, less we fail ourselves and the future students of NYU Shanghai.

This article was written by Shayla Schlossenberg . Please send an email to managing@oncenturyavenue.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: SSDP

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