1. The Education Gradebook

USF's smart move: Make it easy to do the right thing

Published Dec. 6, 2013

You go, University of South Florida.

Way to look like a wise and forward-thinking academic entity in our midst.

(Well, yeah, you might be saying — isn't that what colleges are supposed to be? Except this is not always so. Remember that USF faculty member who dared equate the images of a priest and a toilet as part of a behavioral psychology presentation at an academic conference?

And who subsequently got a letter of counseling and issued an apology after a Catholic civil rights group complained?

Score: Political correctness: 1, academic freedom: 0.)

But in better news when it comes to the state of our state university, USF recently made a move that isn't just sensible for students — it's downright progressive.

This fall, USF enacted what's called a Medical Amnesty Policy, drafted by the head of a group called Students for Sensible Drug Policy. It works like this:

Say a bunch of students are at a party, you know, partying. And, this has been known to happen, someone passes out because of alcohol or drugs. Or isn't responding, isn't breathing. Or something is clearly, badly wrong.

Fellow students should know that getting help in that kind of scary situation — as in, calling 911 or finding someone in authority fast — trumps any other concern. They should be able to make that call without hesitating out of fear that they could get into trouble themselves. Or, even worse, not call at all.

So the amnesty policy spells it out: Subject to a case by case review, a student who makes that 911 call may not be charged with violating the Student Code of Conduct for his own involvement.

And this is no small thing.

Sanctions can range from written warnings to losing your housing to being suspended or even expelled — the kind of entries on a student record that can linger over future job prospects and other endeavors. (And by the way, the protections can extend to the person who was in medical trouble, too.)

It is not a get-out-of-jail-free card (see: case by case review). But it does send a message about what matters most in an emergency.

Now, I suppose it will be harrumphed in some corners that this is just one more example of our blatant permissiveness for the Spoiled Youth of Today, that students need absolute rules, zero tolerance and all that.

But some (as in, plenty of) college kids will drink. And some will get into trouble.

And the idea that a student might move quickly to get help because it has permeated his young brain that the rules say he can make the call and not get in hot water — well, it's seriously hard to argue with that.

You would hope every kid raised right would without a thought put aside his own hide to help someone in peril.

But when we say college student, we are often talking about young people still feeling their way along and figuring it all out. Isn't that at least in part what college is supposed to be about?

And for the record, USF is already walking the walk on this one.

Two students have gotten that medical amnesty.

It would not be too dramatic to say this policy isn't just about saving future prospects, but actual lives.

And that's not just a no-brainer — it's downright college-smart.