Shelby's Rules - an Alcohol Poisoning Education Foundation
HomeMedia KitDirector's MessagePast Appearances and EventsPresentation Outline for Teacher's ReviewShelby's RulesShelby's Last Words LetterShelby's "Choices" LetterAlyssa's StoryJill's StoryCaitlin's StoryColettte's StoryJon Bell's StoryLetters from FriendsPICTURES and MOVIESDownloadsPromotional ItemsIRS Tax Deductible Status
Caitlin O'Neil's Story

Student Judicial Affairs Reflection Paper  -    April 1, 2009
I am a 22-year-old student. I am a campus leader at CSU Chico. I am a responsible individual with strong personal convictions and values. I am the person who dialed 911 when Bethany Dixon required medical attention after she consumed an excessive amount of alcohol.

I am now receiving a sanction from Student Judicial Affairs. Had I not made that call and given my name to the police, this disciplinary action against me would not be happening. This paper is not only required by my sanction, but something I feel incredibly compelled to write.

A study conducted last year at the University of Minnesota showed that students' top two concerns about calling for help in an alcohol-related emergency were uncertainty about whether the situation warranted medical attention, and the fear of discipline. In response to similar surveys, many schools have taken proactive measures to combat this mentality. Over the past decade, 90 different universities - both public and private - have demonstrated that the health and safety of their students is a main priority. Administrators, faculty, staff, and students have collaborated to develop policies to help students who require medical attention in alcohol-related emergencies by providing caring, non-punitive intervention. These policies have held several different titles - from the Alcohol Amnesty Policy to the Good Samaritan Resolution - but the intent of each policy remains the same: To protect students from university sanctions when they seek help in emergency situations.

On Thursday, February 19, I went to a party at a private home where some underage women were drinking alcohol. Although many people who attended this party were members of my sorority, the party was not planned by our organization. According to Student Judicial Affairs, I should not have attended this event. But I thank God every day that I did.

When I found Bethany Dixon in need of medical attention, I picked up my cell phone to dial 911. As I listened to it ring, all I thought about was Bethany's health and well-being. I did not picture my sorority's name splattered across the front page of the Orion newspaper. I did not picture myself sitting in the Student Judicial Affairs office, personally receiving a probationary sanction. I did not picture a maintenance worker climbing up a ladder to remove the Greek letters from my house.

Had I pictured these frightening consequences, I would not have chosen to pick up the phone - I would have waited another hour to see if Bethany could "sleep it off," a choice that most Chico State students make for their friends each weekend. Had I pictured these consequences, Bethany would not be alive today.

Clemson University in South Carolina is one of the many universities which chose to implement a harm-reduction policy last year. After their resolution passed, Tom Richey, president of Clemson's graduate student government, made an announcement. "Today is a great day to be a part of the Clemson family. This policy encompasses the spirit of community-mindedness that many of us have tried to promote," he said. "Although it is my hope that this policy will never have to be used, I am glad that Clemson has sent a message to the student body that punishment does not await those who try to help their friends."

Richey's words bring me to tears. These are the words I desperately wish I could hear from my own administration here at CSU Chico. These are the words that would bear a heavy weight the next time there is an alcohol-related emergency in Chico, and a student decides whether or not to pick up the phone.
I write this paper now because I feel an incredible sense of urgency. As the weather improves and party season approaches, what will a student choose to do if they are placed in my shoes? Due to the publicity that my situation has received, they will picture the images that I initially did not. They face two options: Call for help, and be punished, humiliated, and shamed. Or roll the dice, put their friend to bed, and hope that they will wake up the next day with nothing more than a hangover.

I have a deep love for my university, and my past four years here have been more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. I have served as the president of my sorority, a responsibility that I took very seriously. I am an Associated Students elected officer, committed to making Chico a better place. I have enjoyed so many amazing experiences, but I am so incredibly saddened that my college career must end on such a demoralizing note.
A harm-reduction policy at CSU Chico is urgently necessary, and more relevant than ever before. I will spend my remaining two months at this university doing everything I can to urge students to make the same choice I did - Seek assistance for a friend as soon as possible, without hesitation, without fear. But my message means very little unless the university is willing to publically back it up.

Enter supporting content here