Student safety is a concern for all colleges, and at Goucher things are no different. Like most colleges, Goucher’s biggest concerns seem to revolve around two things: alcohol and drugs. While alcohol violations are slightly down this semester; eleven violations have occurred this semester compared to about fourteen last fall, the number of alcohol transports have gone up. This fall there has been twenty-three cases where a student has been transported to the hospital because they were intoxicated. Last fall, there were only eight such cases. While some could take this to mean Goucher students are drinking more, Assistant Dean of Students Andrew Wu says otherwise. “I think we’re taking the approach of not taking a chance if a student is sick…It’s very much the decision of the student community living member on call…They’ve just been calling and EMTs are taking the same stance,” he said. Alcohol intoxication is also huge concern for the school, because of the consequences it can have. Earlier this semester, a freshman girl at Towson University died while under the influence.
Drug violations have also increased. This semester, there have been about twenty-four incidents, many involving multiple students where illegal substances have been found. Last fall, there were only ten.
Unsurprisingly, the drug of choice on campus appears to marijuana. Some of these violations may be due to confusion. In October, Maryland passed a law that decriminalized marijuana in small amounts. However, the law does not apply to Goucher’s campus. We are required as an institution that receives federal aid and financial aid…to enforce federal drug laws… We need to abide by federal laws.” Wu said. According to Goucher’s Drug, Alcohol, and Tobacco Policy, the possession of marijuana on campus is still prohibited by the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989. Therefore, students who are in possession of marijuana can still be punished.
Depending on the level of severity, a student may be given a judicial referral at their third offense for crimes such as having an open container of liquor or possessing a fake ID, while they might given one for their first offense if it is more severe such as driving while intoxicated or providing alcohol to underage students. Drug offenses are handled quite differently, and judicial referrals are given much sooner than if one is violating alcohol policies.
In Wu’s eyes, one of the biggest concerns on campus is an increase in the number of drug violations, particularly repeat offenders and drug dealers.This was not only because it would mean increased drug activity on campus, but that such people would often mean other unsavory figures may come to campus and that such dealings could lead to dangerous activities and safety concerns. Goucher’s on-campus police aren’t trained to handle such cases, and will often call the Baltimore County Police Department (BCPD) for help. It is also up to the BCPD to decide whether a student violator should be arrested or not.
Still compared to many other colleges, Goucher is very safe. Director of Public Safety Richard Puller said, “Here, at Goucher, property crimes account for most of our activity. The most common being a kind of vandalism in the form of sign damage, some graffiti, and the reported theft of unattended property such as book bags, purses and briefcases but frankly even these activities are surprisingly low. So, we are blessed when compared with other area colleges.”
However, many students have appeared to expressed concern about the number of police officers on campus and the increased role that campus security has appeared to be playing and are under the impression that Goucher has sprung up a new initiative without telling them. Dean of Students Bryan Coker, asked to dispel those rumors, “I want the community to know that we were alerted to these matters by other students. There was no initiative launched by the college to find and target dealers—we acted in response to student complaints.”
Wu was under the impression that some students believed that security’s role was to “regulate student behavior” and that Goucher “is a safe haven to do whatever they want.” He also said, “Anytime we make a decision to search, there are three people involved at least…Public Safety, Community Living and dean on call…so we don’t do searches willy-nilly and I think there’s a sort of perception that were doing that right now. We have some good information from a credible source to do the search whether that’s from a student on the outside…or a Public Safety officer.”
Puller on the other hand, is not so sure about students’ impressions of public safety, “I am not sure there is such an outcry. If there is it’s exaggerated. The only outcry I’ve heard of comes from those sanctioned or those sympathetic to those sanctioned. I think the majority of students are perfectly fine with public safety enforcement. They are just not as vocal.” The Radical Left Group was contacted to find out what they thought of the recent developments, but none responded.
Both Wu and Puller, however, have heard many more positive reactions than negative reactions from students. Wu especially thinks this, as he pointed out that many of the changes have been driven by students. Students who do not partake in drug or alcohol consumption may get ‘fed up’ with the impact that students who do partake have.
“Most of our actions have been a response to that,” he said.
Puller said, “I received an unexpected round of thanks from students in response to our recent enforcement efforts. Most importantly, I want the students to remember that Goucher is a very safe campus.”
Coker also said, “ I want to be clear that the college was appreciative of these concerned students coming forward with information, and we were glad to able to address such dangerous activities.”
But perhaps the most important thing to note are the punishments that students may face. As mentioned earlier, students who violate the policy could be given judicial referrals, but the main focus, particularly for first time offenders appears to be education. These punishments may vary from meeting with a student life staff member to writing an essay. While some of these punishments may not seem effective, others seem to think they can work in certain cases. Wu said, “I’m not naïve enough to think they…are never going to do drugs again.” But he believes that punishments vary according to the individual they are applied to. Puller has a similar view. He said, “I believe they can be very effective but this is a complex issue. And the X-factor is the individual student involved…their history, the extent of their use, and their willingness to help themselves.”
Still both of them realize that what is currently going on Goucher is a huge issue that will not change overnight, especially since it seems that the use of illegal substances have increased since last year and it is unclear what exactly the cause is. Goucher students should feel free to contact Andrew Wu, Brian Coker or Richard Puller if they have concerns about other student or public safety.