ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – UCF administration signed off on a plan Wednesday which would give students amnesty from punitive sanctions if they become so intoxicated they need to call 911 for help, student government leaders told Local 6.
An amnesty concept, which supporters say could save lives by encouraging underage students to call for help, had been repeatedly proposed by student leaders for several years but UCF administration had previously rejected it.
This school year, however, support for such a policy intensified following the death of UCF freshman Ann Hefferin, who had been at a fraternity party with alcohol just hours before she died in August 2011.
Hefferin's roommate called 911 in the middle of the night, saying, "My friend was drinking, and she woke me up and she's sick, and now she's not responding."
Although an autopsy concluded Hefferin only had a trace amount of alcohol in her system and that alcohol did not cause her death, her initially mysterious death fueled a debate about drinking on campus and led to a temporary ban on alcohol at all Greek social events.
While drunk students will enjoy amnesty from UCF sanctions when calling for help under the plan, dubbed the "Alcohol Emergency Policy," it does not grant amnesty from criminal charges police could choose to file for underage drinking.
Even though alcohol didn't cause Hefferin's death, it appears UCF police have still not ruled out criminal charges stemming from their investigation.
"I spoke with Chief Beary and the death is still under investigation," UCF spokesman Grant Heston said.
"We hope to have the investigation complete in the upcoming weeks," Heston added.
Watch Local 6 for more on this story, including information on when the newly approved policy will take effect.