Letter to the Editor: CSU Residents hall senators push for joint opioid resolution

Guest Author

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Speaker of the Senate Isabel Brown (Left) and Josh Williams (Right), speak to the ASCSU Senate about a Joint Resolution aimed at opioid overdose protection. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC),  over 600,000 Americans died between the years 2000 and 2016. Of those deaths, 42,000 died in 2016 alone—an average of 115 deaths each day. On college campuses, between 1993 and 2005, opioid use has increased by 343%–and that increase was before the current epidemic. Newer numbers would certainly be even more grim.

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Despite these harrowing statistics, the Residence Hall Association (RHA) voted Monday to do nothing. To clarify, this is not meant to be read as a slight against members of the Senate; instead, it is meant to bring attention to this important issue.

The Associated Students of Colorado State University (ASCSU), has already done their part by voting unanimously to approve a resolution aimed at preventing and combating opioid abuse on campus. ASCSU further extended their hand, asking for RHA’s approval in the first ever joint resolution between the two student-led governing bodies with a goal of allowing members of Residence Halls to play a role in the passage of this historic legislation.

Some of us in the RHA favored the move—it was clear that it would save lives. Others in  RHA didn’t see it that way. Unfortunately, they injected partisanship and a narrow view of the issue at hand into the debate. Those exhibiting this behavior failed to understand how the opioid crisis impacts people of all ethnic, economic and social backgrounds. This brazen insertion of blanket partisanship worked to stymie ASCSU’s progress in combating the opioid crisis on campus.

The main concern with the resolution was the provision which asks the University to train Resident Assistants (RA’s) to identify and treat opioid overdose. Under the status quo, RA’s at Colorado State University receive no such training and as a result fail to recognize the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose.

The main concern with the resolution was the provision which asks the University to train Resident Assistants (RAs) to identify and treat opioid overdose. Under the status quo, RAs at Colorado State University receive no such training and as a result fail to recognize the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose. To remedy this, the Resolution’s proposal encourages the University to implement training about opioid overdose and treatment, and empower RAs by equipping those ‘on duty’ with Naloxone—colloquially referred to as Narcan. Our RHA colleagues worry the improper use of Narcan may harm students. But, the potential to save lives outweighs any potential side effects from Narcan.

Others claimed the opioid crisis may or may not be a problem on CSU’s campus and, as a result, there may be no need to act–yet. ASCSU’s Resolution already addressed this concern. The language used in the resolution instructs the administration to, “include the number of opioid overdoses and deaths in its annual drug and alcohol report.”

Another participant attempting to downplay the opioid epidemic argued that because opioid deaths have been declining in Colorado following the legalization of marijuana, action is not required. This actually isn’t true. Even if it were true, however, the argument is a non-sequitur. Even if opioid use has been declining, we must act to uphold the safety of our students. 

I just find it disheartening that in the past, ASCSU has failed to pass bills in support of minorities, but they were quick to pass this bill that is mostly affecting white people,” -Anonymous member of Residence Hall Association

The most difficult moment of RHA’s debate occurred when an individual in the room dismissed the issue entirely on the basis of race. They stated, “I just find it disheartening that in the past, ASCSU has failed to pass bills in support of minorities, but they were quick to pass this bill that is mostly affected by white people,” implying opioid overdose is a ‘white’ problem, and that ASCSU has been a body of inaction when it comes to representing all identities on our campus. These comments boldly contradict our mission as RHA Senators. We are chosen to serve and represent all students who live in the Residence Halls, irrespective of their skin color. This is not a race issue, this is a human issue.

Lastly, CSU is not alone in its efforts to combat opioid abuse. The University of Wisconsin has already adopted a policy where both security officers and RAs are equipped with Narcan and were given training in its administration. 

Empowering individuals on our campus to save lives is a perfect example of a policy that all Rams should support, partisanship aside. It is time for our community to come together as one to enact change that directly benefits the student body. This Resolution has the potential to save lives. It is true that Rams take care of Rams–and we implore our colleagues, classmates, and anyone involved in the CSU community to support the ASCSU project to reduce the number of opioid deaths on campus. We will not let this initiative fail, because the lives of our fellow students are at stake. We will continue to fight for this project on our campus, because no student should die from a preventable death.

Join us in this historic movement on our campus by contacting your ASCSU and RHA Senators to express your support.

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Signed,

Sen. K. Alexander Adams, Residence Hall Association

Sen. Alex Moss, Residence Hall Association

Sen. Brendan J. Kaelin, Residence Hall Association

Sen. Brandon J. Northrop, Residence Hall Association

Pres. Sydney Steinhoff, Allison Hall Council

Pres. Ethan Burshek, CSU Young Americans for Liberty

Nelson Bopp, CSU Young Americans for Liberty

Pres. Elijah Ullman, CSU Students for Sensible Drug Policy

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