Survey Spills that 60% of OU students support MIP amnesty bill

“I always tell them to sleep face down so they don’t choke on their own vomit and die,” responded a senior journalism major in one of two surveys on alcohol use, conducted by The Oakland Post and Oakland University’s journalism department.

The question was whether they knew somebody who consumed enough drugs or alcohol to need medical attention. The senior journalism major is not alone; 43 percent of 180 students polled have been in this situation. Of those, 32.5 percent said that the threat of legal repercussions have kept them from seeking medical help, whether it was ultimately needed or not.

Out of more than 300 students questioned in another campus poll, 60 percent said they think there should be amnesty for minors who seek medical treatment for themselves or somebody else. A bill is currently sitting in the Michigan Senate that would do just that (see sidebar in bottle).

While it’s a serious issue taken up by the state legislature, the Oakland University Police Department says it’s not a prevalent one on campus. The OUPD reported that in 2008, there were 66 alcohol violations, with 57 of them taking place in the residence halls. Lt. Mel Gilroy said the numbers have come down a bit for 2009.

Gilroy said a lot of violations are from freshmen during the first month of school and a lot of the incidents occur within a small group of people in residence halls.

“We don’t even see one violation a year that requires transport to the hospital,” Gilroy said.

But that may have to do with a lack of reporting incidents, as suggested by the poll data. Underage drinkers who were polled and who live on campus were more than twice as likely to avoid seeking medical attention for fear of legal repercussions than somebody who is of age and lives on campus.

Almost 30 percent of those polled said they “drink to get drunk” one to two times a month, and over 20 percent do it one to two times per week.

A majority of those asked felt that amnesty would encourage minors to seek help when needed.

“A lot of people would rather die than get in trouble with a MIP,” said freshman Kathleen Caoagas.

Some have come close. Freshman Victor Lord said somebody he knew almost died of alcohol poisoning on two separate occasions. The student combined prescription medication and alcohol during both instances and passed out at a party.

“We didn’t call 911 because we were afraid of getting a MIP,” Lord said. “She got mouth-to-mouth and began breathing again. She went to a psychiatrist for one and a half years for self confidence issues.”

However, 40 percent of students polled said that minors should not receive amnesty no matter what the situation. For various reasons such as knowledge of the law, learning a lesson or encouraging bad behavior, these students believe violators of the law should not be let off the hook.

“You’re breaking the law,” freshman Dan Rochon said. “It’s like when there’s a murder case and people plead insanity. That’s not an excuse. You still did the crime so you got to do the time.”

Freshman pre-physical therapy major Anna Forcier points out that amnesty could let too many people off the hook. “It would be easy for everyone to say they needed (medical) help,” she said. Other students press the debate that there cannot be a black and white answer to the question of whether a minor should receive an MIP for breaking the law.

“I don’t think people who are voluntarily seeking help should get a MIP,” said senior nursing student Austin Sylver. “But to be honest, my friend had multiple MIPs before he even considered going to rehab.”

Sophomore Lauren Deporre has personally seen the effects that substance abuse can have on a family member and is therefore conflicted about a sure answer. When her relative was 18 years old, he struggled with alcoholism.

Deporre’s family member would not take the advice of his parents to enter a rehab program, but other family members were able to get through to him.

“The cousins had an intervention because my family is really tight-knit,” Deporre said. “He went to rehab. Now he has his master’s degree in business and is getting married. It’s a happy ending.”

Although she supports amnesty, Deporre suggested that some sort of medical treatment has to be enforced to fix the problem.

“It shouldn’t be a get out of jail free card,” she said.

The Graham Health Center is available to provide assistance for people with substance abuse, from their comprehensive substance abuse prevention program to individual counseling. For more information visit or call 248-370-2341.

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See the center spread that appeared in the March 31, 2010 issue. Click below to enlarge.