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Brandeis first US univ. to endorse drugged drink testing devices

UPDATED: 3/10 6:30 p.m.

Brandeis University is the first university in the United States to officially endorse and fund the distribution of SipChips, small single-use devices that test if a drink has been contaminated with date rape drugs, according to Ricki Levitus ’20.

The chips work by applying a drop of liquid to the test area, and, within three minutes, the test will produce one of two results: Two lines means that the drink has not been drugged, and one line means the drink has been drugged. It only works with cold beverages. It has a 99.3 percent accuracy rate, and, if the test is inaccurate, it will only produce false positives for having been drugged, according to Student Union President Simran Tatuskar ’21. The technology screens for the most common date rape drugs: Flunitrazepam (“Roofies”), Alprazolam (Xanax) and Diazepam (Valium), as well as Midazolam (Versed), Oxazepam (Serax) and Temazepam (Restoril), according to their website. 

“We talked a lot about how the goal of bringing this on campus isn’t that we think that we should have to have a fix like this product; it’s the idea that we want to use this to bring awareness about the issue, call attention to it and provide something that can be an important safety tool for students both on and off campus,” said Levitus. 

Levitus, who was the first to hear about SipChips, contacted representatives from Undercover Colors to see how the technology could be integrated at Brandeis and brought the idea to Berg at the end of December. Tatuskar then became involved with the project and began to search for funding within the Union.

The chips will first be distributed on March 4 at the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center’s (PARC) table at the Resilience Fair and again at their International Women’s Day table. The free chips will then be available to members of the community at several locations on campus, including PARC office, Student Union office, Student Sexuality Information Service (SSIS), The Stein, the C-Store (also known as Hoot Market), the Health Center, the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC), Intercultural Center (ICC), Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, Department of Community Living (DCL) Quad Offices and Greek Awareness Council (GAC) events.

7.6 percent of college students have been drugged or suspect that they have been drugged, according to a study by University of South Carolina.

“These types of products I’ve always raised my eyebrow and thought ‘someone’s making money off of us having one more thing that we’re supposed to do,’ and I believe that, but I also believe in empowering people with any possible tool that they can choose to use. I think it’s both. We put this tool out there, and if people want to use it, they can,” said Director of Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Sarah Berg in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot. “In some ways, it’s less about the actual testing of the drink and more about being in a community where everyone knows that this is available and that it’s not looked at funny if you were to test your drink and that it’s very normalized. It does a lot of work to challenge people who think that they can do this in the first place—they are no longer in a community where they can get away with it.” 

The chip is valid for 90 days after it has been opened, and all the chips that were purchased by Brandeis expire in March 2021, as indicated on each individual package. Levitus said that the technology was attempted at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill but that it was never fully implemented. 

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sarah Berg said that Brandeis was the first university to bring SipChips to Brandeis and that University of Carolina Chapel Hill was unable to implement SipChips. These statements were made by Ricki Levitus.

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