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Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Associated Students of Madison is leading a campaign to produce a statewide bill that will allow underage students to seek help and receive the proper medical treatment they deserve without fear of legal action.

Medical Amnesty: Associated Students of Madison campaigns to save student lives

Stemming from last semester, the Associate Students of Madison is campaigning to increase the protection of students from legal and academic sanctions in alcohol-related incidents. 

Their ultimate goal is to produce a statewide policy that would shield both the individual in need of medical attention and the individual seeking help from legal citations and academic punishment — whether they are on or off-campus. 

“With a bill like this you’re encouraging people to be safe … and to not think of whether or not you are getting your friend in trouble, but whether or not you are saving your friend's life,” said Legislative Affairs Chair Laura Downer. 

Currently, the Responsible Actions Guidelines at UW-Madison provides amnesty only for sexual assault victims and the caller. The exclusion of individuals in need of medical attention from amnesty discourages students from seeking help due to the possibility of getting their friends in trouble, according to Downer. 

The current state law provides amnesty from certain underage drinking citations and UW System Schools disciplinary actions only in the case of sexual assault.

The Responsible Actions Guidelines is a campus policy, which means two things: It is only applicable to incidents taking place on campus grounds, and it is not binding for the university or law enforcement in any way. 

ASM hopes to extend medical amnesty to the caller and the individual in need of medical attention on a statewide level, meaning that “it wouldn’t matter if it was in the dorm, a house party, or at a bar … people shouldn’t have to question whether or not it applies depending on where in the city they are,” Downer said.  

UW-Madison Administration and UWPD will keep most of the authority they possess today, meaning they may require students to take an educational course and meet with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. The university will also be able to exercise discretionary judgment based on situations where a student exhibits patterns of problematic behavior. 

ASM is striving for a medical amnesty policy very similar to current Pennsylvania State policy. The General Assembly of Pennsylvania passed a bill that provides amnesty for the caller, as long as they remain cooperative, and the individual in need at the state level. 

Two routes are being considered for obtaining amnesty for the students of Wisconsin: amending an already existing law or proposing an entirely new one. 

They are looking to amend the bill that shields sexual crime victims for being issued a citation or being subject to disciplinary measures by the UW System. The amendment offered would increase the amnesty provided by also shielding students in need of medical attention. 

A new bill that is solely concerned with medical amnesty has been introduced in the past, however was not passed. ASM is actively reaching out to the state legislature to strengthen the coalition supporting the bill. 

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“We are getting a relatively positive response from the legislature, especially from people who have supported the sexual assault amnesty bill. Essentially they are saying, ‘Yes, we agree, but we have to have UW administration, the city of Madison Police, and UW-Madison Police on board,’” Downer said. “Once you have that coalition, you are well-prepared to have something passed.”

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