Potential citations shouldn’t deter alcohol-related 911 calls

By Angelina Cole

Of the 210 University students transported to a medical clinic last school year due to overconsumption of alcohol or drugs, a “vast majority” of the admissions were alcohol-related, but the only disciplinary action students received from the University were two appointments with the Alcohol and Other Drug office.

Of those students, 45 were living in University residence halls, said Amy Carmen-Peck, clinical director of the Alcohol and Other Drug Office.

“There is no discipline for students from the University,” said Carmen-Peck. “After they’re stabilized, they are referred to the Alcohol and Other Drug office.”

The Student Health and Safety policy requires that a student must attend two meetings with the Alcohol and Other Drug office if medically transported for alcohol-related issues.

“The first is a Q & A session, which assesses certain behaviors,” said Bob Wilczynski, assistant director of residential life and community standards. “The second is a personal plan devised for the student. Further education may be recommended but not required.”

Carmen-Peck said that the Health and Safety policy allows students to seek treatment and get care without consequences. This includes anyone who makes a call for assistance.

“If students would hide students (in need of medical attention) to prevent getting in trouble … instead of getting help, I would hope that they would recognize that the safety of the students is our first priority,” Wilczynski said.

The University and city police also said student safety is their first priority.

“It is not uncommon to encounter students passed out or lying somewhere (intoxicated),” said Kris Fitzpatrick, chief of University Police. “Our first response is to provide medical assistance if they can’t help themselves and have that person transferred (to a treatment facility).”

The University Police Department works to direct student referrals toward the Alcohol and Other Drug office, but police officers continue to use their discretion when writing citations and issuing warnings.

“When students call, depending on what information they have, they may or may not dispatch an officer to them,” said Scott Friedlein, Sergeant of the Champaign Police Department.

Friedlein added that students will be referred to the Alcohol and Other Drug office at the University to make sure those in need of medical attention are taken care of appropriately. If a student is issued a ticket, they must pay a $300 fine.

“It is of my personal perception that most of these incidents are handled via medical services with the primary focus being on the welfare of the student,” said Friedlein.

The Urbana Police Department follows a similar protocol of discretion, said Sgt. Steve Royal of the Urbana Police Department.

“Discretion is based on the number of incidents with the specific person, their age and a lot of other different variables,” said Royal. “We treat a high school student much differently than someone who is two months away from turning 21.”

Citations written to underage students are not state charges, said Fitzpatrick, because of an agreement between University police and the City of Champaign not to issue students a state citation. Instead, students are cited for violating a city ordinance, based on city laws rather than state laws.

“The most important thing is a student’s health,” said Carolyn Ball, freshman in LAS. “Getting a ticket isn’t the biggest problem.”

Citations turn out to be a motivator to change behavior, but in no way should students fear calling when they or a friend need medical attention, Fitzpatrick said.

“We’ll sort out the details later; never fear calling for medical attention when a student is in danger,” Fitzpatrick said. “Our first priority is to provide medical care. Whether or not the students have been drinking may have an impact; it may have no impact if they have the concern. I would call, there is no question.”