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UW-La Crosse makes potentially life saving change to underage drinking policy

By Kyle Dimke, kdimke@wkbt.com
Published On: Apr 17 2014 06:32:13 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 18 2014 08:53:56 AM CDT

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse students vote 96 percent in favor of "responsible action policy" which will allow students who have been drinking underage to call police in an emergency situation without being ticketed.

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is making a change to its policy for drinking on campus. Students approved a referendum for what's called a "responsible action policy."

It will change the punishment for a student who calls for help if someone's had too much to drink.

UW-La Crosse said they had one of the biggest voter turnouts for this referendum and 96 percent voted in favor of approving the responsible action policy. The plan will allow students who have been drinking underage to call police in an emergency situation without being ticketed.

Students and staff at UW-L feel this new policy could save someone's life.

Chancellor Joe Gow said students have died at UW-La Crosse from alcohol abuse, but hopes this new policy will help to prevent that.

"People said lets make sure that there's just no doubt that if somebody's in trouble physically we're going to get them the help they need and not have to worry about 'are we going to get in trouble legally?'" Gow said.

"We want to encourage students to call and seek emergency medical assistance and to remove one of the barriers of that, the fear of receiving a citation, we created the responsible action policy to encourage them to make that call for what is hopefully life saving treatment," Devin Remiker, director of local affairs for UW-L student association, said.

Remiker said saving your friend's life shouldn't be a crime.

"Saving a life will replace any sort of citation or ticket, it's just so much more important than that," Remiker said.

Director of UW-L Police Services Scott Rohde said this policy is nothing new for his staff they already use their discretion in these types of situations.

"I don't anticipate this is going to be a big change, but even if it's just those one or two that might be thinking that they won't call for help because they don't want to risk that interaction with police, if we can prevent that then it's successful," Rhode said.

The policy will be implemented this fall and the student association would like to eventually move this plan on to city and county policy as well.

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