Drug Policies Prove Difficult to Enforce

Walking through the corridors of Mudd-Blaisdell Hall at Pomona College, the smell of marijuana can be hard to ignore. A jaunt through the Pitzer College mounds may result in a sighting of students smoking unidentified substances. A quick perusal of the Lawry Court balconies on a Saturday night might reveal several groupings of students rolling joints.

According to the 2011 Annual Campus Safety Reports, public reports issued in compliance with federal law for American colleges that contain statistics for alcohol and drug referrals, there were a total of 99 drug referrals in the whole of the Claremont consortium that year, with zero of those referrals coming from Keck Graduate Institute, Claremont Graduate University, or Harvey Mudd College. There were 51 referrals from Pomona, 39 from Pitzer, six from Scripps College, and three from Claremont McKenna College.

Residence halls and public spaces are monitored by Resident Advisors (RAs), who have power over reporting policy violations. But how do RAs, who are students themselves, foster growth and mutual understanding while simultaneously enforcing policy?

According to Pomona RA Wiley Cole PO ’13, Pomona’s Office of Campus Life aims to build community in residence halls while still upholding the rules.

According to Cole, one of the most pervasive policy violations is students smoking marijuana behind closed doors in residence halls, which often draws complaints from other residents.

“Technically [RAs] could knock on all the doors, but such actions usually prove fruitless in terms of creating a long-term solution to the problem,” Cole wrote in an e-mail to TSL.

RAs will often talk to residents in order to persuade the residents to change their behavior. However, Cole warned that “if the behavior does not stop, we take more drastic measures, such as fines and sanctions.” 

Knocking on doors usually will not stop policy violations, Cole said. 

“People know how to hide things that are illegal and how to hide the signs that they have been consuming illegal things,” Cole said. “Further, people can even elect not to open the door,” unless explicitly ordered by Campus Safety or an RA.

Austin Henderson PO ’14 said that he believed that RAs should only enforce policy if there is a complaint.  “I think the policy is good to exist there for those that don’t want to live in a smoking environment, but I take the general view of drug policy that no harm should equal no penalty,” Henderson said.

Martin Barrera PO ’13, who is also an RA, echoed Cole. In an e-mail to TSL, Barrera explained that it is often hard to find the exact source of the smoke.

Barrera said that he has never encountered issues with drugs other than marijuana and alcohol.

“However, as RAs we are aware that encountering harder drugs is a possibility and we are prepared to address these situations if need be,” he wrote.

Illegal substances are not addressed uniformly throughout the 5Cs. Pomona clearly outlines three categories of sanctions: Category I addresses marijuana use, Category II addresses harder drugs, and Category III addresses manufacture or sale of drugs. Each category has specific sanctions for the first, second, and sometimes third offense, which can include a letter home to the student’s parents or possible suspension.

Harvey Mudd’s drug policy also emphasizes making students aware of state and federal codes regulating substances, as well as warning them of possible penalties from the school, which are not specified in the policy.

Scripps addresses drug policy in terms of state and federal statutes, but also deals with violations individually. 

“Consistency is an important aspect of responding to these situations on a case-by-case basis,” wrote Scripps Dean of Students Rebecca Lee  in an e-mail to TSL. “Each situation has its own nuances, and it allows us the flexibility to better tailor our response to the situation at hand.”

Lee noted that reports involving drugs are “relatively infrequent” and almost exclusively involve marijuana.

The Pitzer student handbook provides students with California policy pertaining to drugs, which notably allows for the consumption of marijuana if provided by law. The handbook also lists “pipes, hookahs, water pipes, and any glass or homemade smoking devices” as prohibited.

Claremont McKenna College frames drug policy violations as violations of the college’s Basic Rule of Conduct, which involves respect for the community as well as for the college’s academic and administrative processes. In addition, the policy specifically states that CMC complies with federal policy in regard to medical marijuana.

Even though the 5Cs adhere to state and federal policy in their drug policies, the administrations will usually work with Campus Safety before the Claremont Police Department.

Miriam Feldblum, Pomona Dean of Students, emphasized that the 5Cs have a good relationship with the Claremont Police Department.

“Campus Safety compiles a report on all unusual activities that occur on campus and are brought to its attention,” Director of Campus Safety Shahram Ariane wrote in an e-mail.

Campus Safety explains on its website to provide reports to the campus deans, but it does not expand upon how often Campus Safety interacts with local law enforcement.

Feldblum acknowledged that the Claremont Police Department does not have a presence at the 5Cs, and she stressed that the local police only come to the campuses when notified and do not patrol residence halls.

Feldblum added, “The college doesn’t hesitate to call in local law enforcement” in cases such as drug sale or manufacture.

As Feldblum explained, the goal of the college is to make residence halls “a place for all students,” and it is the college’s responsibility to make these living areas safe spaces, which could involve drug policy enforcement.

Cole also highlighted the ultimate goal of safety. Whether or not a sanction is issued, he said, the RAs are there to promote safety. 

“‘Safety’ here means that students are abiding by the Student Code,” Cole said.

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