Campus Life

When in doubt, call for help

Updates to Penn State’s Responsible Action Protocol extend protection from University conduct sanctions to include a student suffering from an alcohol or drug overdose when help is sought on their behalf

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When a night out involving alcohol takes a turn toward the unexpected, students are reminded to always call 911 in the event of an emergency.

Local guidelines, including Penn State’s Responsible Action Protocol and Pennsylvania’s Medical Amnesty Law, protect students from prosecution for consumption or possession of alcohol when they seek help for a peer who is passed out, unconscious or unresponsive as the result of over-consumption.

The guidelines specifically protect students who have been drinking or are under the influence of drugs and seek help for another. If a student contacts the appropriate authorities, stays with the victim until help arrives and does not have any additional pending violations (vandalism, assault, etc.) they will not be subject to disciplinary action. However, these students will be required to attend Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS), or a similar program; the fee will be waived.

Recent updates to Penn State’s Responsible Action Protocol extends the protection from University conduct sanctions to cover the individual for whom help is sought, whether the individual contacts appropriate authorities themselves or a peer contacts someone on their behalf. While, under this new policy, the individual for whom help is sought will typically not face conduct sanctions for their actions, he or she could still face legal action.

"It is critically important for the University to encourage greater personal responsibility among its students, both responsibility for themselves and each other," said Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs at Penn State. "What pleases me most about this initiative is that it originated from our student leaders, who seek to join with our staff in finding new ways to enhance student safety and well-being, just as it should be."

University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) initiated the request to amend the Responsible Action Protocol and worked with the Student Affairs office, including the Office of Student Conduct, and University leaders throughout the amendment process.

Guidelines such as the Responsible Action Protocol are in place at Penn State to promote a culture of safety, action and accountability. The University takes Pennsylvania drinking laws very seriously; it also recognizes that individual student health and conduct are among its key priorities.

To read the full Penn State Responsible Action Protocol or Pennsylvania’s Medical Amnesty Law, visit the Healthy Penn State website.

Additional information can be obtained by contacting the Penn State Office of Student Conduct or the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Last Updated November 04, 2021