Graphic by Rachel Ettlinger
Mary Cate Long Contributed to this report
The Pepperdine administration is continuing to work with student leaders to revise the Good Samaritan policy.
Dean of Students Mark Davis was clear that conversations regarding the revisions of the policy are independent of any particular incidents. The policy has been widely debated among students since last fall, after an off-campus party involving members of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity.
“We review the student policies and code of conduct every year. The first major revision [to the Good Samaritan policy] was two or three years ago,” Davis said. “Another major revision is coming because these are big issues we are dealing with. Other schools’ policies are more explicit in their language, and we are looking to those as examples.”
Pepperdine administration, including Davis, and the Student Government Association (SGA) are considering student voices, various past incidents and other universities’ systems to better clarify and revise the policy.
Davis said the goal is to finalize all revisions by the upcoming summer so that the new Good Samaritan policy will be complete in time for New Student Orientation (NSO) in the fall.
How the Policy Works Now
“The Good Samaritan policy was created to encourage students to take immediate action in any crisis or medical emergency,” according to the Pepperdine Good Samaritan Policy website. The website states that “no University disciplinary sanctions will be issued to either the reporting student(s) or to the student(s) in need of assistance related to the violations [to the Code of Conduct] that occurred at or near the time of the incident.”
These violations are outlined to include “crisis situations involving alcohol, drugs, physical violence and/or sexual misconduct.” Further information can be found on the online Good Samaritan policy FAQ page.
In most cases when a violation of the Code of Conduct occurs, the process is fairly simple. All incident reports involving Good Samaritan go to Sharon Beard, associate dean of Student Affairs. A meeting is then set up between the student in question and Beard where they can discuss the incident and talk about moving forward.
“The most common case for the Good Samaritan is when a student sees that his or her friend or roommate is vomiting and they call for an RA,” Beard said. “In most of these cases, the students are not aware they are receiving immunity under Good Samaritan.”
Beard said that in a majority of cases, the student receives immunity under Good Samaritan without any complications. There have been 29 cases in the past three years that students received full immunity under the Good Samaritan policy, Beard said.
“No one talks about it when the policy applies, but others seem to come forward when it doesn’t apply,” Beard said.
In the infrequent circumstances where the details of the incident make it unclear whether the Good Samaritan policy applies, Beard said the issue is taken to a hearing in front of the Student Disciplinary Committee, where the student is able to make their case for immunity.
“It is cases that are not so black and white, which cause us to relook at the policy and see where there can be revisions,” Beard said.
Current SGA president Austin Welch said he is scheduling weekly meetings with Beard, Davis and a small group of other SGA members to rework the policy.
Welch sent out an email to the student body Monday afternoon requesting feedback and opinions regarding the Good Samaritan policy. Students can take a survey enabling them to express their experiences, feelings and knowledge regarding the policy in a private, anonymous setting.
In addition, Greek life representatives are submitting their perspectives and ideas in the revision process. Welch said fraternity and sorority leadership have reached out to him and administrators, voicing their particular concerns with the policy.
“Greek life on campus has had collective meetings and collaborations on suggestions that they have made,” Welch said.
Davis said they are exploring other options on how to include other student groups to make the new policy “as inclusive and applicable as possible.”
Welch has taken steps in hearing the voices within several student groups.
“I have been reaching out to other organizations on campus and asking what their experience with using the Good Samaritan policy is, whether in their organization or personally,” Welch said.
Regarding the Good Samaritan’s Role
Although no aspects of the new policy are finalized, the administration is attempting to determine clearer language regarding specific scenarios and issues.
Davis and Beard said a big consideration in an unclear Good Samaritan policy situation is whether or not the good samaritan student was also a major perpetrator of the student’s harm.
“The university looks at if the person requesting Good Samaritan also put the student in a harmful position,” Davis said. “It’s important to know if they were a major contributing factor.”
Beard noted that, in a crisis situation involving alcohol for example, there is a big difference between merely providing access to alcohol and forcefully pressuring someone to drink alcohol. Administration is taking distinctions such as this into careful consideration in the revision process, so the policy can be altered to include clearer language.
Regarding Student Organizations
Administrators and students will discuss how or if the policy will apply to student organizations in the future. Davis said the Good Samaritan policy’s immunity currently only can be applied to individual students and does not claim to cover student organization penalties.
Language establishing what number of students constitutes an official organization event would be important in this discussion.
Beard said she played a part in creating the policy that states an organization may be held collectively responsible for violating the Code of Conduct when four or more members were present at the event in question. Beard emphasized that the policy states “may be” because there are other factors considered.
“It’s open-ended because it’s about the spirit behind what is happening,” Beard said. “When four or more members of the same organization happen to live in the same house, they could be running the risk of hosting organization events. But, we never just look at the numbers.”
Regarding the Follow-Up
The follow-up after requesting the Good Samaritan is the third area Davis said they were possibly clarifying. Davis and Beard said, currently, repeatedly lying to administration about code violations effects the application of Good Samaritan immunity.
“Honesty is a big factor. We look at the student(s)’ honesty with the 911 call, with the paramedics, cooperating with Public Safety,” Davis said. “Also continuing to be transparent and tell the truth when talking to the administration after the incident.”
Beard emphasized the goal is not to “get the student on a technicality,” but continuous dishonesty prevents administration from understanding the scope of the issue and ensuring the safety of all students involved.
“Student safety is the utmost importance for the university,” Beard said. “We want to take away any barrier or hesitation for students seeking medical attention for other students in need.”
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