Cracking Down

By Siobhan Murray


In the fall semester of 2011 (Aug. 24-Dec. 15), 17 drug law violations were committed, according to the Public Safety Crime Log. These offenses come in the first year of the University’s new, stricter drug policy. Drug use violations numbered 27 in all 2010, up almost 70 percent from the previous year. There were six drug arrests in 2010, five more than in 2009.
The University established a new drug policy at the beginning of the year that gives marijuana users “three strikes” and permanently expels any possessors, sellers or distributors of large amounts of illicit drugs. This results from the efforts of the Illicit Substance Policy Committee, a panel appointed in the spring of 2011, by the Committee on Complimentary Activities (CCA). The new policy is the product of three years of efforts by the CCA and addresses the use, misuse, possession and distribution of drugs, illicit substances and paraphernalia. 
“The substance policy committee was made up of students, faculty and staff and looked at state and federal laws in addition to the policies of our peer institutions,” said Lewis Marrara, assistant dean of students and judicial administrator.
The policy’s full effectiveness of decreasing drug use and drug violations remains to be seen. However, the 17 offenses in one semester projects the year-long total to be higher than than the 27 under the lenient policy a year earlier.
As the Drug-Free Schools and Community Act Amendments (Public Laws 101 – 226) to the Higher Education Act of 1965 dictates, the University must comply with legal drug sanctions as a recipient of federal support. Government laws provide the minimum standards for drug policies, and if an institution under federal aid fails to comply with such standards, all federal support rewarded in grants and financial aid is at risk.
“If a university knowingly ignores behavior on campus that misaligns with federal law, that’s a serious issue,” said associate professor Elizabeth Evans, faculty chair of the committee that appointed the ISPC. “We weren’t just stamping down on student behavior.”
Evans says the process for strengthening the drug policy has been in the process for years, and the new rules reflect the committee’s long-term efforts.
The new drug policy maintains the University’s “no-tolerance” stance on drug use. The policy clearly states that “Bucknell students are not to use, possess and/or distribute illegal drugs on or off campus.”
If a student becomes aware of a drug offense, he or she is to inform the Department of Public Safety or the Deans of Students Office. The guidelines apply to all illicit substances, including, but not limited to, depressants, stimulants, narcotics, hallucinogens, cannabis, performance-enhancing drugs, party drugs and “date-rape” drugs. The new policy makes a point to crack down on marijuana users.
First-time offenders face a $350 fine for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia and $500 for possession of both. They also face a minimum of two drug-counseling sessions, Level I probation for remaining time at the University and a note to parents or guardians. First-time offenders must also complete mandatory service hours. Offenders caught with marijuana or paraphernalia face 10 mandatory hours, while offenders caught with both face 20. Violators also face possible loss of a priority housing number, study-abroad privileges and off-campus housing privileges. Second-time offenders must take a leave of suspension for at least one semester, go through off-campus counseling sessions and complete 40 hours of community service. The message of zero-tolerance is clear for third-time offenders, who are penalized with expulsion from the University.
In addition to the sanctions for possessors of marijuana or paraphernalia, the new drug policy also calls for administrative hearings for the misuse of drugs, such as snorting or sharing prescription medicine, and for the use of synthetic drugs including K12, Spice and Salvia. Any possession, distribution or sale of large amounts of an illegal drug results in permanent expulsion.
Former Associate Dean Commerford brought attention to the significant number of students smoking marijuana who were not being penalized under the University’s past point system. The CCA chose to respond accordingly in their efforts to comply with federal law. Bucknell Student Government (BSG) was also involved in the effort, and was asked for feedback and approval throughout the process of development.
The most important part of the policy may be in providing students with knowledge of the rules so that they can act accordingly. Because many students may not be aware of the recent changes in the school’s rules awareness, rather than punishment, could be the key to decreasing the misuse of drugs.
“The BisonPedia handbook will be coming out soon to inform students of drug policies,” Bucknell Student Government president Sara Girmay ’14 said. “I will be sending out a letter to students urging them to know their rights in these matters, especially in the wake of House Party Weekend.”
Only time will tell if the newly strengthened policy will be effective at cutting down drug use at the University. 
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