Eliza Patterson ‘22
Few people want to believe that they are going to be transported to the hospital for alcohol related reasons. Yet, since this past August, Campus Police reports that 28 calls have been made to them concerning the wellbeing of a drunk student, and 21 of those calls have resulted in a hospital transport in Mecklenburg county. Similarly, from August of 2018 to May of 2019, there were 29 calls, with 22 resulting in transports. For this reason, it is important for students to understand how the transport system works and the type of support the school provides.
Most students on campus admit that they do not know exactly how or when a student gets transported. Claire Collver ‘20 stated, “I think somebody calls 911 if they have a really drunk friend, and then they go to the hospital in an ambulance. Then they have to pay a lot of money.”
These sentiments — that students will automatically be transported if Campus Police are called, and that it is extremely expensive — are echoed by other students. Lindy Bustabad ‘21 remarked that after someone has called Campus Police, “I think regardless of [the student’s] condition, they have to be taken. I think students do what they can to avoid it, partly because it’s so expensive.”
However, in contrast with student perceptions, the student transport process is not concretely defined. According to Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life, Jason Shaffer, “usually what happens is somebody in the community observes a person who they are worried about, and they reach out to someone on campus, typically someone in RLO or from Campus Police.” From there, that representative from the college can decide that “they are not worried about that person” because they’re coherent and in control of their actions, or “if there is a question or concern, they can get somebody who has the right medical training to evaluate the situation.”
Fire Department Chief Bo Fitzgerald ‘99 said that “once the ambulance arrives, the medic crew chief has the ultimate say so as to whether a patient needs to be transported or not.” Essentially, even if medical professionals are called, they may decide that a student is coherent and stable enough to refuse transport. The school then “waits to provide support to those students based on what those medical experts determine,” said Dean Shaffer.
This is shown by the fact that of the 28 calls before mentioned, 7 of the students were considered sober enough to decide they did not want or need to be transported.
However, Bustabad felt that “the transport team is called more frequently than necessary.” Henry Stockwell ‘19, agreed and stated that “over my four years I have seen transports that I don’t think were necessary, but I know it’s a really sticky situation, because you want to be cautious.”
The school is not blind to the belief that some students are transported unnecessarily. Dean Shaffer says that it can be really hard to determine when transport is necessary, and that it’s possible “in the time it takes to get the student to the hospital, the student’s liver has metabolized more of the alcohol, and they may then be sober enough to make decisions about further medical treatment.” Campus Police Chief Todd Sigler added on to this, responding that the school “will err on the side on of caution every single time. I’m sorry that a student would incur the expense, I really am. But at the end of the day, it’s safety we are worried about.”
As for the cost of the transport, Dean Shaffer commented that “insurance companies cover different amounts based on what treatments were provided. Different insurances will bill differently, so the reason students are confused is because there isn’t one set charge.”
Students have expressed their desire to avoid being transported. Stockwell says, “I think we do a good job taking care of people who are too drunk. I guess I most often see that take the form of just staying with somebody instead of actually calling 911.” Collver agrees saying, “I know personally if there was any way to not go to the hospital, I would like to avoid it, and I feel like a lot of my friends would too.”
However, students also agree that if they have a friend who might be in real danger, they feel comfortable reaching out to the school for help. “I think that if anyone on campus saw that someone needed to be transported, they would get them transported,” Collver said. Additionally, Stockwell remarked, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody not transported who should have been.”
In that sense, the transport system effectively takes care of Davidson students. Nevertheless, Dean Shaffer believes “the bigger question is, what is leading students to this dangerous behavior and how we, as a college, can address and reduce it.”