Pitt officials, SGB mum on Alcohol Task Force meeting

By Olivia Garber

Details about a discussion on a possible alcohol amnesty policy remained hidden from most… Details about a discussion on a possible alcohol amnesty policy remained hidden from most students when SGB members met with Pitt’s Alcohol Task Force in a private meeting Friday afternoon and both parties declined to answer questions afterward.

Nearby universities like Temple and Carnegie Mellon offer underage drinkers amnesty from punishment when seeking medical attention after drinking, a policy that Pitt chooses not to implement.

Friday’s meeting came after more than a semester of debate between students and administrators about the merits of such a policy and after an investigation by The Pitt News into the laws behind campus alcohol policies.

“What we really wanted to do was start a conversation between the administration and the students,” SGB member Alex Zimmerman said after the meeting.

But the conversation has not reached students.

Anna Vitriol, a health educator at Pitt’s Student Health Service, declined to comment, directing all questions about the meeting and what was discussed to Pitt’s media relations.

Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Robert Hill responded with a statement from the Division of Student Affairs, which remained relatively tight-lipped about the subject.

The statement confirmed that the SGB members requested to speak to the Alcohol Task Force about the amnesty policy and will continue to do so, but representatives did not explain further.

“We anticipate meeting with members of SGB in the future to continue the conversation about alcohol use on campus and gather feedback from them regarding ways in which the ATF can continue to assist students and educate the campus community, particularly the student body,” the statement said.

The statement added that the Alcohol Task Force invited SGB to appoint a representative to the Alcohol Task Force meetings because the task force values SGB’s “opinions and views as representatives of the student population.”

During last week’s SGB meeting, Zimmerman said that he, along with Board members Emily Hoover and James Landreneau, requested the meeting with the Alcohol Task Force after several students approached them about the possibility of developing an amnesty policy.

“Ultimately, there are student concerns,” he said last Tuesday.

The concerns center around Pitt’s adherence to an alcohol policy that allows Pitt police to cite underage students for drinking, even if they are seeking medical attention.

Underage Pitt students, found drinking by University police, regardless of their medical condition, are subject to criminal citations and University judicial sanctions. In addition, any students found “knowingly present” at an alcohol violation on campus are also subject to University sanctions, according to the Student Code of Conduct.

SGB previously met with Carnegie Mellon’s Dean of Student Affairs Gina Casalegno to discuss CMU’s alcohol policy, which allows underage students to seek medical attention without legal ramifications.

Student Affairs said in its statement that about half of Pitt’s Alcohol Task Force is comprised of students.

Landreneau declined to comment after the meeting about the meeting because of the issue’s “sensitivity.”

Hill made one comment about the issue independently of Student Affairs, responding to a request for an update about Pitt and an amnesty policy.

“The University has responded extensively to this previously for The Pitt News and has nothing new to add,” he wrote.