Just in time for Little 500 weekend, a new Indiana University policy will grant immunity to athletes who intervene in potentially life-threatening situations involving underage drinking.
One of three new policies approved by the university’s Faculty Athletics Committee on April 12, IU’s Lifeline Rule encourages Hoosier athletes to provide assistance without fear of punishment from their respective coaches and administrators.
The committee concurrently approved a policy that will prohibit university athletic programs from accepting athletes with records of sexual assault or domestic violence. Also addressed were policies regarding fan behavior.
In addressing the Lifeline Rule, Jeremy Gray, IU’s senior associate athletic director for strategic communications and fan experience, said it’s a step toward ensuring IU athletes are not punished for acting in good faith.
“It grants immunity for doing the right thing to make sure teammates and fellow student-athletes are getting home safely,” Gray said.
The rule is the brainchild of Indiana junior swimmer Marie Chamberlain, who last fall presented a proposal to the athletic department’s student-led committee “IU Doin’ It Right,” which deals with issues relating to hazing, dating violence and alcohol education. IU senior football player Rashard Fant was also involved with creating the policy.
“There have been a bunch of studies done where athletes do everything all or nothing,” Chamberlain said. “Partying is no exception. From talking to people in different sports, I think we’ve all experienced someone who should’ve gone to the hospital, but we were too scared to call 911 because of what would happen to our athletic careers.”
When Chamberlain presented the idea to Fred Glass, she was met with enthusiasm from the Indiana athletic director.
“It was funny because one of the questions he asked was, ‘Is there any other school in the country that’s doing this?'” Chamberlain said. “I was like, ‘Not that I know of.’ He paused and said, ‘I love that.'”
Under IU’s policy, “both the person who reasonably appeared to be in need of emergency medical assistance and the person who requested or worked in concert with the person who requested the emergency medical assistance will not have any penalties, punishments, or sanctions levied against them by the Athletic Department or their individual team, specifically including that any students so involved may not be removed from the team or have their scholarship adversely impacted as a result of the incident.”
In the event of an incident, the athlete’s coaching staff will be advised and those involved will be referred for substance abuse treatment or counseling.
“The most important thing to me is getting athletes to value their lives over their sports,” Chamberlain said.
IU’s lifeline policy is consistent with Indiana’s state law that provides immunity from arrest or prosecution for certain alcohol offenses if the arrest or prosecution is relation to the person reporting a medical emergency, being a victim of a sex offense or witnessing and reporting what the person believes to be a crime.
The state Lifeline Law grants immunity for the crimes of public intoxication, minor in possession and minor in consumption, among others.
IU’s sexual assault policy outlines that “any prospective student-athlete — whether a transfer student, incoming freshman, or other status — who has been convicted of or pled guilty or no contest to a felony involving sexual violence” will not be allowed to practice or compete for IU.
The policy defines sexual assualt as dating violence, domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or sexual violence, as outlined by the Indiana University Policy on Sexual Misconduct.
In 2015, the Southeastern Conference adopted a proposal that prevents member schools from accepting transfer students who have a history of domestic violence and sexual assault. The Big Ten, meanwhile, has left similar decisions to each institution.
IU’s policy provides flexibility for a prospective athlete to appeal. In that scenario, a case consisting of “compelling exceptional circumstances” would be presented to a panel that includes the university Title IX coordinator, university general counsel and IU’s faculty athletics representative.
A policy for sportsmanship guidelines was also adopted last week, outlining expectations for fans at IU sporting events.
It includes rules against profane or abusive language, unruly behavior by intoxicated individuals and a request that fans sit only in seats for which they hold tickets, among other expectations.