Health, police officials find U students are not ‘big-time’ illegal drug users

Police find drugs most often when they stop vehicles for traffic violations.

Brady Averill

University officials say there is not a big drug culture among students, and the statistics back up their claims.

Numbers from Boynton Health Service, the University Police Department and Student Judicial Affairs show University students aren’t big-time illegal drug users. And when they are using, marijuana is most often the drug of choice.

For the last three years, University police have cited approximately 100 illegal drug-related incidents each year, and the number has increased slightly each year.

Aggressive enforcement and a close relationship between police and housing officials have helped find more drug users, said Steve Johnson, deputy police chief for the University Police Department.

Police find drugs most often when they stop vehicles for routine traffic violations, he said.

Many drug incidents don’t involve students, Johnson said.

“It’s not a big problem on campus,” said Johnson, who has been at the University for more than 25 years. “There aren’t signs of a community full of drug use here.”

People are here to get an education, not to use drugs, he said.

“I like to believe that most of the people here are serious about going to school,” he said.

Crime statistics at The Ohio State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison show fewer people are arrested on those campuses for drug use.

According to The Ohio State University Police Web site, in 2003, there were 42 drug-related arrests on campus. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there were 57 drug-related arrests on campus in the same year, according to the police Web site.

Housing

Last year, 38 students violated University of Minnesota Housing and Residential Life’s controlled substance rule that bans illegal drugs and paraphernalia use in residence halls, said director Laurie McLaughlin.

All incidents involved marijuana, she said.

McLaughlin said she believes there is some occasional drug use on campus. If housing officials see violations of the law, they contact the police, she said.

Each case is different, and housing officials react to each on a case-by-case basis.

Housing and Residential Life Associate Director Mannix Clark said he can only talk about the number of drug-related incidents that housing officials deal with.

If officials suspected a big drug problem in residence halls, they would increase the number of educational programs on drugs, he said.

“If (a big drug use problem) was clearly brought to our attention, we would deal with it,” he said. “That’s the only way we can do better.”

Student affairs

Students caught breaking housing policies, the student conduct code or the law anywhere on campus can be dealt with at Student Judicial Affairs.

Last year, the office saw 29 drug- and alcohol-related cases, director Sharon Dzik said.

Of those cases, 75 percent were strictly alcohol-related, she said.

As for illegal drug use, associate director Meredith McGrath said, “Mostly what we’re seeing is marijuana. It’s easy to see. It’s easy to smell.”

Student Judicial Affairs determine a wide variety of sanctions, from warnings to expulsions, for all drug-related offenses. It depends on the case, McGrath said.

Penalties are stricter for students caught dealing drugs, she said.

“It happens. I don’t know if we get a case every year,” although it’s not unheard of to get one or two cases in a year, she said.