Friday, September 2, 2011

Dear Dean Holmes...

Wow, I didn't realize until I came here that this would be two "Dear Powerful Dude..." posts in two days. This one is unrelated to the last. 
This post has to do with a just-enacted policy by the College of Wooster, specifically Dean of Students Dean Holmes, which requires the Wellness Center to notify the Dean's office whenever a student comes to the Center with an alcohol-related malady. I am (formally) vociferously opposed to this policy and (informally) mad enough to bite through bricks. 
Below is a letter to Dean Holmes regarding this policy. I have already sent copies of this letter to the Dean's office (in person) and to the campus newspaper, the Wooster Voice (via email). If you are as outraged by this regulation as I am, I encourage you to write and submit your own letters to the Dean's office. He's in Galpin Hall. Go in through the front door, walk straight and it'll be on your left.

UPDATE: I have a second post up on this topic. A member of the student government told me that the Dean had already had the power to requisition students' information, and that this is an expansion of that rule rather than its inception. However, I think there are still several problems with this policy, which you can find at this link.

UPDATE II: It struck me that I should probably mention the following: In this and all subsequent posts and letters, the opinions I have expressed and will express are mine own and do not necessarily represent the views of my First Responder comrades, or the organization as a whole, or any other body to which I belong, unless stated otherwise. However, the overwhelming majority of students with whom I have spoken on this topic to date, First Responders or not, have agreed with my position and sympathized with my concerns. 

Dear Dean Holmes,

My name is Andrew Tisdel, and I have been a First Responder for the past three years. I was surprised and extremely displeased to read in the Wooster Voice today that the Longbrake Student Wellness Center will now be required to inform the Dean’s office when an intoxicated student arrives at the Center.

This rule not only undercuts the First Responders’ entire reason for existence, but it results in a clear and obvious danger to the safety of intoxicated students.

Let me explain what I’m talking about. Both Resident Assistants on campus and Security officers receive some form of medical training, similar to the training course First Responders undergo, and are able to provide medical assistance in an emergency. The Wellness Center’s nurses, who provide exemplary medical care inside the Center, are also fully capable of performing our duties. In that sense, we are a redundant institution at this College. The quality that sets us apart from other organizations is the very one that you have just eliminated, namely, our ability to guarantee patient confidentiality.

 In the past, when a student brought her drunken roommate to the Wellness Center, she could do so with the knowledge that the worst consequence would be a session with an alcohol counselor. Unless the drunkard was brought in by Security, there would be no mark on the student’s permanent record, and no outside agency would be informed. This ability to provide confidential medical care is the only reason why First Responders exist. Students can call us when they need help, and we can provide receive assistance that doesn’t come with unpleasant consequences, like being written up by Security. Your rule takes away this much-needed aspect of patient confidentiality.

However, I must emphasize that the irrelevance of the First Responders and the blatant disregard for patient confidentiality that this rule implies are comparatively trivial. Much, much worse is the danger that this rule poses to the health and safety of intoxicated students.

As I said above, the advantage of the First Responders and of a confidential Wellness Center is to give students someplace to seek consequence-free medical aid. What you have done, Dean Holmes, is to give students a real incentive not to bring their drunken friends to the Wellness Center, and thus keep them from receiving medical attention. That is by far the most important consequence of the rule change.

Students who are afraid of getting written up by Security, or who think the Wellness Center will report them to Security, are less likely to bring their friends to the Center when they need assistance. In trying to help the drunkards, these well-meaning friends keep them away from medical attention, and in so doing, put the intoxicated students’ health and safety at risk. What this new rule does is ensure that more students, often slightly intoxicated themselves, will make the wrong choice.

I believe that the rule, while unmistakably well-intentioned, is also unnecessary in the context of catching repeat offenders. You stated in the Voice that the purpose of the rule is to draw attention to students that are showing signs of alcoholism, and likened the notification of your office to a “parking ticket”. But the Wellness Center nurses already keep records of student visits in those students’ medical histories! They, and the counselors, are already well set up to ‘catch’ potential alcoholics early and give them treatment and counseling.

As for the “parking ticket”-like nature of the notification, a logical and rational person such as yourself will probably recognize it as such. But to a student who is tipsy, and who is scared because her friend is throwing up blood and it’s 3 AM and who is afraid of getting in trouble, it won’t be seen that way. That is a guarantee. It will be seen as a reason not to go to the Wellness Center and get her friend medical aid, and that is exactly what you and I do not want.

This new alcohol policy removes the First Responders’ raison d’etre, it deals a huge blow to the principle of patient confidentiality, and it poses a serious danger to intoxicated students on this campus. For all these reasons, Dean Holmes, I implore you to rescind it as soon as you possibly can.


Andrew J. Tisdel
Class of 2012

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