Progression of Alcohol Immunity Bill result of collaboration between ISS and state legislators

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

On a campus where underage drinking is both prevalent and arguably a norm, there is always a chance that someone who is underage may suffer from alcohol poisoning. There’s also a chance that another underage drinker may be hesitant to call 911 for help in an alcohol-related incident at the risk of being charged with underage drinking.

That’s where House Bill 2341, the Alcohol Poisoning Immunity Bill, comes in. The bill was created in collaboration between State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-103, and former student body president Brock Gebhardt. If passed, it would protect underage drinkers who seek medical assistance for someone who has alcohol poisoning or who needs assistance for an alcohol-related emergency.

The bill has been approved by the House Committee on Rules for final consideration in the House. Since the bill can potentially save lives and directly affects students on our campus, we hope the House will recognize its importance to other state campuses and eventually pass the bill. 

It is also important to note that students from this University made the effort to lobby for this bill. In November of last year, members from the Illinois Student Senate headed to Springfield to ask representatives and state senators to vote in favor of the bill. We applaud the ISS senators that traveled to Springfield, because without their effort, it’s possible the bill would not have made it this far in the House. 

We also commend Jakobsson for proposing the bill and considering the needs of University students — one demographic of Jakobsson’s constituents — and bringing this important issue to light to the state. 

With this bill, she has acknowledged the incongruence between the number of underage students who drink and the policies on campus that may inhibit them from seeking help for alcohol-related incidents because they are drinking illegally. We appreciate that she is willing to collaborate with University students to bring something much-needed into law.

But as much as we like to think students should be responsible and held accountable for their actions, the University also has a responsibility to keep its students safe, something that clearly resonates with both Rep. Jakobsson and ISS. 

What this particular bill would do is set standards for alcohol immunity on the state level, as well as strengthen and reinforce the unwritten (yet widely understood) alcohol immunity code at the University level.

It’s not so much presenting anything new, but it’s strengthening the alcohol immunity policies we already have. 

When Cornell University implemented its alcohol amnesty policy, the percentage of students seeking intervention following an alcohol-related incident more than doubled from 22 to 52 percent. The alcohol immunity policy is equally about keeping students safe as it is encouraging students to seek assistance following an alcohol-related emergency. 

If we have a campus climate that discourages students to report incidences of alcohol poisoning in the first place, how can we expect them to pursue medical and mental health interventions following an incident? 

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment is that our student senators identified a policy we need desperately on campus and truly fought and lobbied for it. And by collaborating with state legislators, our student senators were able to take a policy on campus and manifest it into a statewide initiative. 

The Alcohol Poisoning Immunity Bill is a prime example of the successes that can be achieved when our student government collaborates with state legislators to create change, as well as the ability we have to take campus issues and address them on the state level.