Roofies, roofies, who’s got the roofies? For a while there, the possible presence of date-rape drugs on campus was the talk of the town among those Pomona College students who actually bother to open their e-mails, more buzz-worthy than the latest in a long line of Norovirus outbreaks or Acting President Conrad’s directive that we all wear blue on Thursdays—fine by me, as long as she respects existing traditions regarding pink-designated Wednesdays. But although many of my fellow Microsoft Outlookers have gravitated to newer and juicier subject headings in the intervening weeks—salmonella found in vodka?! Oh, phew, just more transports—I find myself hung up on Dean Mooko’s “Campus Safety Notification” from early September’s days of yore.
As Emily Hayes reported in the article “How Did Your School Respond to Date Rape Drugs?” published in last week’s edition of the Claremont Port Side, not every school in the consortium alerted its students to the potential threat as quickly as Pomona did. Claremont McKenna College waited until the following Monday to send a cautionary e-mail to the student body—beware that weekday drink-tampering, folks!—and Pitzer College and Harvey Mudd College chose to shun the official announcement route altogether. Based on my own perceptions and opinions about the severity of the matter, I’d say that the Pomona approach was the most effective, if we’re grading on a curve.
In his e-mail, Dean Mooko warns us to watch our drinks, be wary of strangers bearing libations and keep an eye on any particularly sloppy compatriots. These are all good tips and, once a night of revelry is underway, pretty much the only things you can do to avoid being slipped a mickey. But wouldn’t it be swell if we could rid ourselves of the scourge before the sun even went down?
Subtly, tacitly and most likely unintentionally, the wording of that e-mail alert contributed to the culture of victim-blaming against which many of us at the 5Cs are working to fight—not by including undeniably useful tips about personal safety, but by failing to mention anything about the accountability of this mysterious alleged rohypnol-peddler or those who make use of his or her wares.
Arguably, the last line of the e-mail, which reads, “If you have any information about the presence of ‘date rape’ drugs on campus, please contact someone in the Dean of Students office, the Office of Campus Life or Campus Safety immediately,” implies that, when presented with more evidence, the higher-ups will move to put the kibosh on the date rape drug pipeline. But I’m just not satisfied with that.
How about a quick rehash of Pomona’s stringent drug policies, which recommend a semester’s suspension for first offenders of the rule against manufacture, distribution or intent to distribute illegal or prescription drugs, and expulsion for those who offend twice? Or—and here I’m thinking of the “rape” in “date rape”—a brief reminder of the possible sanctions against those found guilty of sexual assault or misconduct, which range from the old suspension-expulsion one-two punch to mandatory community service? Given that the Student Handbook states that the severity of the punishment depends in part on the “degree of obvious intoxication” of the victim, I feel like perpetrators of sexual assault against the unwillingly drugged would be staring down something more than just a slap on the wrist.
Everybody’s talking about the seriousness of the issue. But it’s not the fact that people are putting down their drinks to go to the bathroom that’s inherently serious. It’s the fact that someone may be drugging them. At the end of the day, while it’s not smart to accept drinks from a stranger, it’s not against the law, and it’s done without intention to harm. Someone is at fault here, and it’s not the person who unwittingly picks up the wrong kind of drink.
Amidst our Good Samaritan policies and legions of relatively lenient Campus Security people—for all of which I am thankful—if there is any offense for which we should reserve our harshest judgments and most serious punishments, should it not be the drugging of an unwitting victim, almost always with intent to further abuse said victim? Further, if we decide that this is the case, what better forum for condemning such offenders than a school-wide e-mail about the possibility of their presence on our campuses? From my perspective, the e-mail blast represented a missed opportunity for a much-needed reminder about the difference between the e’er-expanding, kids-will-be-kids experimentation gray area and the realm of the truly unacceptable. So let me just say it here: Whoever’s got the roofies, you’re not off the hook. We have words for you too.