Who’s “Got Your Back”?

In the collegiate realm of detoxification, a cloak of judicial amnesty removes some of the insult from the injury. “Got Your Back” was implemented at UVM to remove hesitation and doubt from students seeking help for their overdosed peers. It does this by pardoning students who might be in violation of a substance related policy who pursue or receive treatment. What most students don’t know is that on the Dean of Students Web site there are criteria for said “amnesty” which include (1) being on campus during the incident, (2) specifying “Got Your Back” and (3) praying to god the police don’t file charges.In the rare event police (of any department) choose to take action, the University understandably no longer has control over the legal processes.”Got Your Back” was implemented in the fall of 2005 and there has been a record high so far this year of 49 students receiving amnesty following a detoxification. Vivian Garay, the Assistant Dean for Retention and Assessment from the Dean of Students office, explained that last semester the University tested a discrepancy that now exists between the online publication and the actual implementation. Garay explained “clarity” was the initial reason students had to be on campus and specify “Got Your Back” because police reports might not specify who should receive amnesty. However, with improved communication between both the Burlington and UVM police departments, they have found they can determine a “Got Your Back” for students re?gardless of the three criteria.Kim Martin Anderson, Director of the Center for Student Ethics and Standards, confirms, “A student who deserves it has never been denied amnesty.” Although the criteria on the Web site are now trivial in practice, the two offices made light of new criteria to which students are subject. If a student has a B.A.C. of .20 or above, they are required to meet with Vivian Garay in an “are you ok?” atmosphere following their detox. More controversial is the second, partially publicized detail, which only allows for “Got Your Back” to be used one time. Julia Michel, an SGA senator, is now questioning this limit to allow for multiple uses in an effort to uphold the philosophy behind “Got Your Back.” Since its implementation, no student has qualified for “Got Your Back” more than once. Most likely, this issue will be resolved before said situation presents itself.There is an enormous difference between the publication and the implementation, and the question of how and why has a simple answer. “Got Your Back” is not a policy of the University Of Vermont. Rather, despite that it on the Dean of Students Web site, it is a “publicized protocol,” according to Garay.After discussing the matter with some students in Tupper 1, the consensus was unanimously slurred, “I don’t trust them, man,” despite what some would call a benign encounter with “Got Your Back” earlier in the fall of 2007.In September, Anthony Staples, a freshman at UVM, was awoken by the knock of two RA’s and a UVM police officer that had been anonymously informed via “Got Your Back” that Staples might have been in need of medical attention.Staples proved not to be in need of medical attention, and a reminding knock from the R.A.’s the following day provided a “recap” of the incident. He reportedly had no further encounters with the Center for Student Ethics and Standards (CSES)regarding the event. However, while attending another judicial hearing, the case resurfaced, and Staples claimed that the prior record “definitely hurt my case.” CSES also made it clear that the records are kept and do factor into future judicial hearings a student may face.”Got Your Back” certainly has discrepancies, and it could be questioned why the University has not made it a policy.However, the implementation certainly upholds the philosophy to date.