For the past six years, the consequence for getting caught with alcohol was a slap on the wrist, while getting caught with marijuana was a serious offense. It looks like all of that is about to change.
In 2010, the biennial review group- a group of students, faculty, and professors that assembles every other year to assess Goucher’s drug and alcohol policy- got together to review Goucher’s various policies on alcohol and drugs. This assessment is required by the federal government. According to Rebecca Dietrich, the Associate Director of Public Safety, Goucher must complete this assessment in order to receive federal aid.
The 2010 biennial review completely overhauled the consequences for breaking college policies and established the sanctions that have been in place since 2010. In these sanctions, the consequence for the first offense of marijuana use or possession is a $150 dollar fine, a judicial referral, an educational sanction, a parent notification, and probation. On the other hand, the consequence for the first offense for alcohol possession by an underage student is a meeting with a student life member and an educational sanction. Under these sanctions, all other narcotics use or possession have the same consequences as marijuana possession.
According to Dietrich, the sanctions that are currently in place are a result of the previous sanctions being very vague. Due to this, Judicial Board (J-Board) had to rely immensely on their own judgment, which meant sanctions were administered without consistency. The 2010 biennial review thoroughly outlined the new sanctions and separated consequences based on the number of offenses. This gave the Judicial Board a clear guideline of for administrating consequences.
However, some of those consequences can be unnecessarily harsh. With the rise of the legalization of marijuana and growing scientific evidence showing that marijuana is not more dangerous than alcohol, it seems strange that the consequences for marijuana-related violations are significantly harsher than those for alcohol-related violations.
One night three semesters ago, Justin Harvey Clithero ’18 was out in the woods with his friends. They were all smoking weed except Clithero when they got caught by a Public Safety officer. They were brought in and told to write statements. Everyone wrote in their statements that Clithero doesn’t smoke weed, and wasn’t smoking it at the time. Clithero was required to go before the Judicial Board to prove his innocence. Lacking evidence, Clithero offered to take a drug test. However, the school informed him that the school does not perform drug tests and that if he wanted one he would have to get it privately. Clithero found out that it was $200 to get a drug test, a payment $50 higher than Goucher’s fine. Ultimately, he did not get a drug test, and went before the J-board and told them his story. They voted to give him the $150 fine, a parent notification, and an educational sanction. If Clithero had been caught with alcohol, he would have faced far less severe charges.
Andrew Wu, the Associate Dean of Students, said that the sanctions for marijuana possession are more severe than alcohol in part because students have to conduct illegal activities in order to obtain it. For instance, buying marijuana from a dealer is a crime by itself.
Dietrich stated that these harsh charges also arose out of the extremely high number of alcohol violations in years prior. From 2007 through 2009, there were up to of 200 alcohol violations, according to the 2010 biennial review. Between 2012 and 2014, there was a steady decrease of violations from 188 to 139, as stated in the 2015 annual security report, which suggests that the sanctions are working. However, the previous sanctions for alcohol possession was a $25 fine and an educational sanction, as stated in the 2010 biennial review: The consequences for alcohol possession have become less severe.
What is causing the drop in alcohol violations? Wu stated he doesn’t “think they’re [students] drinking less.” It is that the school has been receiving more tips about students using drugs.
According to the 2010 biennial review, the number of drug violations for 2007-2009 remained in the 20s, and during this time, the marijuana possession first offense was a $75 fine, probation, and an educational sanction. According to the annual security report, the numbers of drug violations for 2012-2014 were 58, 44, and 54. The review increased the marijuana possession fine by $65, added a Judicial referral, and a parent notification. The severity of the sanctions increased, but the number of drug violations have only gone up.
Wu also pointed out, “we are coming short in our alcohol enforcement.” Public Safety will easily be able to bust a party, he said, but the more dangerous scenario might be a student who is alone in their room, binge drinking. Wu said that Public Safety and RAs would benefit from more training on identifying these types of situations.
The next biennial review is coming up this summer, but before they decide what changes to make to the current sanctions, the Goucher Alcohol Collaborative, a group Wu assembled, consisting of students, professors and faculty, is going to rewrite the current sanctions. A sub-committee of that group is currently revising the sanctions as well as other alcohol and drug related policies. The sub-committee is made up of about 12 people, all professors and faculty, including Wu and one student. Wu stated that the reason for revising these sanctions was to make them clearer and shorter. He wants to condense them down to a few pages from the nine it is now. This committee is going to look at the different aspects of the sanctions such as the fines, how to clearly define educational sanctions, and where to place various substance violations. Wu also said that he does not “want our sanctions not to reflect the values of the community.”
Prior to the committee’s first meeting, the “general consensus seems to be that it would be a good idea to combine alcohol and marijuana” in the sanctions, Wu said, expecially because the harmful effects of alcohol and marijuana ar similar. Nevertheless, after their first meeting on February 29, Wu said that he does not see the possibility of bringing alcohol and marijuana into the same category, even though they will be changing the sanctions to “focus on the type of violation rather than the type of substance.” Alejandra Rocha ’17, the student member of the subcommittee, said that they are likely going to keep alcohol and marijuana separate because marijuana is illegal in Maryland.
The Goucher Alcohol Collaborative subcommittee plans to meet two to three more times before the end of the semester. Their goal is to have a new version of the sanctions drafted that they can propose to the biennial review. However, it is not certain that the biennial review will accept their new version and put it in place for the Fall 2016 semester. While the biennial review must put sanctions in place before the beginning of the newsemester, it is up to them how the sanctions- and, subsequently, the fates of students- will be changed, if they will be changed at all.