Members of Pitt’s Student Government Board’s judicial committee have spent the last two weeks asking people around campus if they understand the University’s “good Samaritan” policy.
They found that many did not.
The Pitt Responsible Action Protocol, also known as the good Samaritan policy, protects students from legal action if they are reporting a dangerous situation for another student. This protection extends to alcohol-related violations but does not protect students from disciplinary action relating to any other criminal activity, such as assault, property damage or presence of other illicit substances. For example, if a student called the police to seek medical assistance for a friend who was throwing up or unconscious after drinking, the caller would not be penalized for also engaging in illegal activity.
However, students who do not take “responsible actions,” — who do not alert appropriate officials of a health or safety emergency — according to the student code of conduct, are void of all protections under the protocol, meaning they could be subject to harsher discipline.
The judicial committee, headed by Jad Hilal, tabled around campus for two weeks to determine how students engaged with the current policy and what kind of benefits could come from a new policy. Although they do not plan to change the protocol, the members hope to improve student awareness of the protocol with student affairs and resident life.
“If students aren’t calling because of the current protocol, that is an issue not only for health, but it is an emergency that is putting student lives at risk,” Hilal said.
According to Hilal, of the 239 students surveyed on lower campus, 25 percent — or roughly 60 people — did not know the protocol exists. Among parental notification, remedial education, fines, conduct records and police records, police records were most likely to deter students from reporting an emergency. The survey showed 43.1 percent of students would not call during an emergency if their friend would receive a police record for the incident.
The board is presenting its information to the alcohol, drug and tobacco task force this Friday.
In other news, board member and President-elect Max Kneis announced Tuesday that the results of a mental health task force survey about current mental health services on campus were mostly positive.
The task force completed a questionnaire as part of Pitt’s partnership with the Jed and Clinton Foundation, which works to help colleges enhance student health efforts. The questions, which members of the task force responded to, focused on several different aspects of mental health services on Pitt’s campus, including questions about counseling policies, life skills options and the role of environmental factors in these services.
“Most of [their conclusions] were extremely positive. They were pretty impressed by the services Pitt offered,” Kneis said.
Now that the foundation has collected preliminary information from the task force, representatives from the foundation will visit campus sometime during this semester to look at Pitt’s resources for themselves.
Although the visit is not yet scheduled, Kneis said the representatives will meet with members from the mental health task force and the counseling center to create a three-year plan for improving resources on Pitt’s campus. Kneis said the plan is to begin implementing the new strategies next year.
Board member Justin Horowitz, who also serves on the mental health task force, said he wants to talk to the foundation about ways to continue and improve the programming SGB puts on to increase awareness about mental health and resources on campus.
He said this semester, with the lack of psychiatrists and the long wait times at the counseling center, is the “perfect time” for an outsider perspective.
“We’re hoping we can pinpoint those [issues] and they can point us in the right direction,” Horowitz said. “Counseling services have been pretty consistent for a while now — we really decided what we need are some changes.”
Kneis also announced a plan to keep a digital record of allocations requests for the last fiscal year, this academic year and future requests. Kneis said a member of the first-year council, a group of first-year students who assist board members with their initiatives, will scan paper files of requests so the board and the student groups requesting funds can have easier and more efficient access to their records.
“I’ve met with countless groups this year where they come in and say, ‘we have no idea what kind of funding we got in the past. You all submitted [the request] so you should get a copy of it,’” Kneis said, referring to student groups.
After the allocations committee approves the request, the committee sends a copy to SORC, which will add the money to student group’s account and file the request in a large filing cabinet for later reference. Kneis said SGB keeps a record of the past five years of allocations requests but that the digitized system will make it easier to access these records as they consider requests moving forward.
“Paper gets lost, or if people don’t file it correctly, suddenly there’s no record,” Kneis said. “The one advantage is we’ll always have a digital copy, so it’ll be easier for everyone on the campus to access it.”
The Political Science Student Association requested $3,613.62 for a trip to Washington, D.C. The Board approved the request in full.
Men’s Water Polo requested $1,457 for league dues. The Board approved the request in full.
Pittsburgh Fencing Association requested $1,253.19. The Board denied the request in full.
Ya’Baso Dance Troupe requested $1,747.31 for its annual showcase. The Board approved $1,744.25 and denied $3.06.
Kappa Kappa Psi requested $2,094 for a regional convention. The Board approved $698 and denied $1,396.
Rainbow Alliance requested $20,200 for a guest speaker to share their experience with the group. The Board approved the request in full.