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Responsible Friend Clause meant to help, not hurt students

Going to a party off campus? You break out your most stunning outfit and get ready for a promising night. You and your friends have a night to remember, but not one to tell the folks. Once you come back to campus, you say goodnight and head back to your room.

Campus Security notices you’re stumbling quite a bit, so they stop you. They find you are intoxicated. You haven’t sobered up from the party. They don’t have to Breathalyze you for you to feel the effects of the Substance-Free Community Policy.

“Impairment is a student being in a diminished state of mind at the time of her or his incident due to the use of a Substance(s). Due to the danger to the student and our community, impairment escalates the University’s response,” according to the Bruin Guide.

This means a student can be held accountable for his or her actions even if the student is not found actively violating campus policy.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule in order to encourage reporting and to ensure the safety of students.

“In order to encourage reporting for somebody that’s had too much to drink or might be on drugs, the Responsible Friend Clause is in place,” said Molly Zlock, the Title IX coordinator and assistant dean of students.

The Responsible Friend Clause is a part of the Bruin Guide, and it provides some immunity to students who seek medical attention for their peers.  The reporter must call Campus Security and must stay with the friend until help arrives.  This policy does not apply to students who report their own emergencies, nor does not apply if a student is found impaired by university personnel.

“To weigh the risk, the university will consider such things as — but not limited to — whether the behavior is repetitive for the impaired student, threats or acts of violence (including sexual violence) occurred during or after the incident, injury to others occurred, significant damage to property occurred, weapons were involved, etc,” the Responsible Friend Clause states.

The Responsible Friend Clause is a friend in this case because as long as the behavior is not repetitive, there is a strong possibility there will be no consequences from the university.

However, the clause does not apply to actions taken by law enforcement.

“I do not believe that an incident where a student made one mistake should be factored into if they win school awards, recommendations for study abroad,” Student Government Association member Mia Delamar said.  “If a student is a one-time offender and they were never in the situation again, it should not be factored internally. However, a repeat offender should be analyzed thoroughly.”

In the event of a sexual assault, as the Responsible Friend Clause alludes to, there are different rules in place to protect victims — including a form of immunity found under Title IX laws.

“If you’re reporting a sexual assault and let’s say you’ve been drinking and you were at a party, and the facts are very dependent on facts that happened at the party, the person reporting will not be charged with a violation,” Zlock said.

If it arises in the investigation against a sexual assault that the reporter or another student involved is engaged in harmful habits, like a drug or alcohol dependency, there may still be resources given to the students, but there will not be punitive measures taken, said Zlock.

Title IX also offers other protections.

As the Title IX coordinator, Zlock can put into place no-contact orders and change class schedules and housing arrangements to keep students away from people who make them uncomfortable and do investigations to determine if violations occurred. There are options available to students, Zlock said.

These are to ensure the health of a student and should not be read as a deterrent to reporting.

“In the interest of getting at the truth , I do not want the fact that there was drinking involved to deter a witness from providing information on the case,” Zlock said.

After all, the immunity clause in Title IX and the Responsible Friend Clause are in place to foster reporting and keep students safe.

This article was written by Sydney Evans and Jessica King.

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