Jason Thibodeaux

Photo Credit: Crystal Marie Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Many students remain unaware of a policy that allows students to report alcohol-related emergencies without facing disciplinary action.

Although there are more students aware of the University Health Services’ alcohol amnesty policy this year than last year, the number of informed students remains low, according to results released from a survey distributed to students before spring break.

The Student Amnesty for Alcohol Emergencies program, set up in 2008, is currently being “relaunched” after UHS found that many students were still afraid to report alcohol-related emergencies because of the possibility of getting in trouble.

According to Frances Nguyen, health promotion coordinator at University Health Services, many students, when told about the policy, dismissed it as being too good to be true.

“A lot of what we found in our research is a lot of students have heard about it but don’t believe it exists,” Nguyen said.

In fall 2013, the National College Health Assessment found that only 6 percent of UT students surveyed knew about the amnesty program. Before spring break, UHS distributed a second survey and found 13.9 percent of the 724 students who completed the survey were familiar with the policy.

“It’s something that exists and we really want students to know about it,” Nguyen said. “It reduces that barrier that when students call 911, that should be their first reaction instead of worrying about what the disciplinary action should be.”

According to Jason Thibodeaux, director of Student Judicial Services, there were 199 cases involving alcohol on campus, and of those cases, 11 were deemed eligible for the amnesty program. He said most disciplinary action is taken when students in residence halls are left alone because their friends do not report the situation.

“If the people had reached out for help first, it wouldn’t be a disciplinary issue,” Thibodeaux said. 

Thibodeaux said the low numbers of reports are due to the lack of students who are aware of the program. 

“Honestly, when we meet with students they don’t even know about this amnesty policy until we bring it up,” Thibodeaux said. “We would be more than happy to have many situations of the policy. We’re not out to get people.”

Student Judicial Services and University Health Services will be working together through the summer to raise awareness of the policy among first year students and will attempt to make the program better known in the fall.

Jessica Duncan Cance, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology and health education, said the re-launch of the program would also give the University an opportunity to educate students about the signs of alcohol overdose.

“It’s a very thin yet scary line that takes somebody from being drunk to potentially at risk of an alcohol overdose,” Cance said.

Cance, who is a co-chair of UT’s Wellness Network’s High-Risk Drinking Prevention committee, said the students should know the signs of alcohol poisoning. According to Cance, the committee has been working to educate more students about the amnesty policy this semester.

Cance said signs of alcohol overdose include mental confusion, gasping for air, paleness of the skin and throwing up.

“Just like you know you should wear a seat belt every time you get in the car, this should be information that is just part of your sub-consciousness,” Cance said.

Cance said the amnesty policy should make students more willing to report alcohol related emergencies and make them less worried about the consequences.

“It’s better to have a friend be mad at you than to have a friend who has an extreme medical emergency,” Cance said. “That’s a much better thing to have to deal with than to have a death or somebody hospitalized because they had too much to drink.”

Cheating and plagiarism rates on the 40 Acres may actually be on the rise despite reports that plagiarism violations are declining. 

Student Judicial Services releases reports for disciplinary cases each academic year. From the 2007-08 report up to the last released report in 2010-11 the number of plagiarism violations decreased from 164 to 85.

However, the decrease in the number of plagiarism violations at UT contradicts many reports, including a Pew Institute study in which a survey of college presidents said that plagiarism in students’ papers increased to high levels over the past 10 years. 

Jason Thibodeaux, assistant director and coordinator of student outreach, said contrary to the reported rates for UT, he is unsure if there has been an actual decrease in plagiarism violations on campus.

“I think it’s just more of a matter that we’ve changed how we classify things a little bit,” Thibodeaux said. “I think a lot of them have been shifted to the cheating category because we do see a lot more of the copying of other students work or other students’ prior work as opposed to just copying from published resources.”

In the four-year time span from 2007 to 2011, the number of cheating violations reported by Student Judicial Services rose from 87 to 191, while the number of reported plagiarism violations decreased.

“There is some overlap with those two things. That might be why the numbers might look a little misleading,” Thibodeaux said. “Basically it is a reflection of the kind of cases that we’re seeing, but it also, I think, can be misleading because it gets caught up in the nuance of how things are classified.” 

Management senior Reggie Walker said students who violate academic integrity regulations affect professors, administrators and others in the classroom.

“Plagiarism is immoral and unethical overall,” Walker said. “It not only [keeps] an individual from earning a valuable education, but can become a bad habit. It affects the learning process and inconveniences the professor by requiring time from their schedule to file documents and reports on the student who is plagiarizing.”

In an attempt to decrease cheating and plagiarism violations, some professors, including history lecturer Penne Restad, create assignments for their students that have not previously been assigned. 

“There wouldn’t be an assignment of a 10-page paper on the Battle of Bunker Hill because someone else has already written 10 pages on the Battle of Bunker Hill,” Restad said. “I’m increasingly more interested in how students analyze things. I’m looking for certain qualities that we’ve been talking about in class that have to do with analysis.”

Even with the assignments Restad produces, she has still encountered students under pressure who cheated or plagiarized.

“From the students I talked to and the reports I read, it seems like there is so much pressure to succeed and that there is competition coming from every angle,” Restad said. “So I think probably students sometimes have greater moments of panic. What I am trying to do is find assignments where the temptation is not there to cheat or plagiarize, or the temptation is certainly lowered.”

Published on February 22, 2013 as "Cheating and plariarism may be on the rise at UT".