Responsible Action Protocol
Responsible Action Protocol ("RAP")
At Northwestern University, the health, safety, and welfare of our students and community are paramount concerns. As such, all Northwestern students are expected to alert appropriate officials in the event of any health or safety emergency — specifically including those involving the abuse of alcohol or drugs — even if violations of the Student Code of Conduct may have occurred in connection with such an emergency.
Because the University understands that fear of possible disciplinary actions may unnecessarily deter certain requests for emergency assistance, the University has adopted the following Responsible Action Protocol to alleviate such concerns and promote responsible action on the part of students.
In a situation involving imminent threat or danger to the health or safety of any individual(s), students are generally expected (1) to contact emergency officials by calling 911 to report the incident, (2) to remain with the individual(s) needing emergency treatment and cooperate with emergency officials, so long as it is safe to do so, and (3) to meet with appropriate University officials after the incident and cooperate with any University investigation.
The University will consider the positive impact of taking responsible action in an emergency situation when determining the appropriate response for alleged policy violations by the reporting student that may have occurred prior to or contemporaneously with the emergency situation. This means that no formal University disciplinary actions or sanctions will be imposed for alcohol or drug infractions, but the incident will be documented, and educational, community, and health interventions — as well as contact with a student’s parents or family — may be required as a condition of deferring disciplinary actions or sanctions. The protocol does not protect repeated, flagrant, or serious violations of the Student Code of Conduct (including physical or sexual assault, violence, hazing, harassment, theft, or vandalism or instances where multiple individuals need medical attention), nor does it preclude or prevent action by police or other legal authorities.
Student organizations and groups, through their officers and members, are also expected to take responsible action in emergency situations, to incorporate these protocols into their training and risk management plans, and to always comply with them. A group’s compliance with these protocols will be considered a mitigating factor when determining the outcome or sanction of an incident that otherwise merits disciplinary action against the organization. Additionally, the University will deem the failure of a student group to comply with these protocols to be an especially egregious factor when determining disciplinary actions.
Failure of students or student organizations to take responsible actions in an emergency situation where action is clearly warranted, however, may void all protections under this provision, may constitute an aggravating factor for purposes of sanctioning, and may lead to further disciplinary actions when such failure to act otherwise constitutes a violation of University rules, regulations or policies.
Frequently Asked Questions about RAP
What is the purpose of the Responsible Action Protocol (RAP)?
Northwestern believes that the health, safety and welfare of its community members are paramount concerns. The Responsible Action Protocol (RAP) is designed to encourage students to be responsible members of the University community by seeking prompt, professional, medical assistance in emergency situations, particularly those involving possible alcohol poisoning or drug overdose. RAP promotes safety and responsibility and reduces unnecessary concerns about calling for immediate emergency assistance by imposing no formal disciplinary sanctions for alcohol or drug infractions that may have been committed before or in conjunction with the emergency by the students who seek such help.
How does the Responsible Action Protocol work?
In an emergency situation, particularly where an alcohol or drug overdose is suspected or where other medical attention may be warranted, students are asked to take the following steps:
- Call 911.
- Stay with the individual needing assistance (unless it is unsafe to do so).
- Cooperate fully with emergency officials at the scene and with University officials after the fact.
In other words: Call. Stay. Cooperate. Students who follow these steps may receive no (or lessened) disciplinary action from the University.
If students follow the RAP guidelines, does that mean that no disciplinary action is taken?
Yes, in virtually all cases. But students will likely still need to meet with a University official, and students may be required to complete educational, community, and health interventions as a condition of deferring disciplinary actions or sanctions. For example, students may be asked to complete an alcohol/drug screening, write a reflection paper, complete an educational workshop, or engage in University or community service.
In cases where repeated, flagrant, or serious violations of the Student Code of Conduct occur (including physical or sexual assault, violence, hazing, harassment, theft, or vandalism or instances where multiple individuals need medical attention), students may still be subject to formal disciplinary action, but the University will consider the students’ efforts to summon aid as a mitigating factor when assessing possible sanctions.
What records are kept regarding incidents involving the Responsible Action Protocol?
Records regarding incidents in which the RAP protocol is followed will be kept and maintained in a student’s confidential file in the Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution. For more information, please see information about our policies governing the Retention and Reporting of Student Conduct & Disciplinary Records.
Is there a limit to the number of times the Responsible Action Protocol can be used?
No. Students are always encouraged to look after their friends and peers and are expected to take responsible actions anytime they are necessary.
Will my parents find out?
Possibly, but not necessarily. The University reserves the right under its Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) policy to contact parents or guardians where students under the age of 21 have violated University rules regarding alcohol or drugs (even if the RAP protocol is invoked) or where there is a health or safety emergency. For more information, see the University’s FERPA Policy.
Does the Responsible Action Protocol protect student from police or legal actions?
No. The Responsible Action Protocol only applies to University disciplinary action; it does not prevent or preclude police or other legal actions.
Does the Responsible Action Protocol cover student groups and organizations?
Yes. Student organizations and groups, through their officers and members, are also expected to take responsible action in emergency situations, to incorporate these protocols into their training and risk management plans, and to always comply with them. A group’s compliance with RAP protocols will be considered a mitigating factor when determining the outcome or sanction of an incident that otherwise merits disciplinary action against the organization.
Student groups are held to a higher standard because of their numerous officers and members, the existence of additional University policies governing student organizations, and the need for established risk management efforts at group activities. Student groups are expected to incorporate the RAP guidelines into their risk management plans and thus always comply with the Responsible Action Protocol. The University will therefore deem the failure of a student group to comply with RAP guidelines as an especially egregious factor when determining disciplinary actions or sanctions.
Individual members or officers who follow RAP guidelines would also be eligible for possible protection under RAP for any individual violations they may have committed.
What is alcohol poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning is another term for an alcohol overdose, when individuals consume so much alcohol that their bodies can no longer process it quickly enough. Alcohol poisoning and overdoses are potentially lethal; the human body simply cannot tolerate or process excessive amounts of alcohol. Too many college students have died as a result of alcohol poisoning.
What are the signs or symptoms of alcohol poisoning or overdose?
The signs of alcohol poisoning and overdose include (not all of these need to be present):
- Confusion or stupor
- Slow, irregular or abnormal breathing
- Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin
- Loss of consciousness: Inability to rouse a person with shouts or shaking (unconscious) or inability of a person to remain awake for more than a few minutes or to carry on a coherent conversation when awake (semi-conscious)
A person who has lost consciousness and cannot be roused is in danger of dying. Help is needed immediately.
How do I aid a friend who might be experiencing alcohol poisoning or overdose?
First, call 911. Then (if you are in the residence halls) call or send someone else to notify your CA or the CA/AC on duty, but don’t leave the person alone.
Second, stay with the person needing assistance until emergency help arrives. During this time, here are some additional pieces of advice:
- DO: Turn the person on his/her side to prevent choking if the person vomits.
- DO: Be prepared to tell emergency personnel as much information as possible, including the amount and type of alcohol or substances consumed.
- DO NOT: Leave the person alone.
- DO NOT: Leave the person on his/her back.
- DO NOT: Try to make the person vomit.
- DO NOT: Try to get the person to eat or drink anything, even water. (The stomach is severely irritated and cannot handle anything else.)
- DO NOT: Put the person in a cold shower. (This will not lower a person’s blood alcohol content and could cause shock.)
Third, after the event is over, be prepared to meet with a University official and cooperate fully with them by telling them what happened. If you follow the guidelines of the RAP, including assisting University officials, no (or lessened) disciplinary action may be taken against you. But it may still mean that other steps may be required, such as completing educational or developmental actions or other things as described in the RAP.
Additional Information about RAP
For more information about the Responsible Action Protocol, please see the following:
- Announcement of the Responsible Action Protocol (.pdf format)
- FAQ about the Responsible Action Protocol (.pdf format)
- RAP Handout (Policy & FAQ combined) (.pdf format)