The war on drugs began raging in the United States during the mid-1980s, leading to hundreds of arrests. The law is no exception at universities, but students could face additional consequences.
Despite a student body of more than 41,000 people, there really isn’t a drug problem at USF.
Sgt. Mike Klingebiel, spokesman for University Police, said the most common drug found on campus is marijuana. And although rare, some students have been found with possession of club drugs, such as ecstasy.
“On-campus drug use is more recreational,” Klingebiel said. “Some students have had enough drugs on them to be legally considered as having the intent to distribute.”
Klingebiel said the UP catches most students with possession of drugs when responding to a complaint from the smell of marijuana coming from a room in the residence halls.
“There have been times when we’ve set-up buys with dealers on campus, but for the most part it’s a complaint about smell or a tip from a student,” Klingebiel said.
Regardless of whether criminal charges are filed, Klingebiel said, every incident involving drugs is turned over to student affairs.
“Our objective is to prevent future usage of drugs, so after we’ve done our part, student affairs decides what action the university should take,” Klingebiel said.
After a referral is received by student judicial services, an initial review is held to decide whether to charge the student.
“Our office receives referrals from university police, students, resident advisers, faculty and staff,” said Jason Spratt, coordinator of student affairs and director of operations at the office of student judicial services. “After that, we’ll do a review, which is where I talk with students about what happened and decide if the student is responsible or not responsible. When students come in, they don’t get judged on their character but the behavior that brought them here.”
Spratt added that the university investigation is separate and different from the judicial investigation.
“We are concerned with the university code of conduct and the student’s behavior. For example, I spend 45 minutes to an hour with a student trying to talk about what happened and why,” Spratt said. “We’re not adversarial in nature and we don’t want to punish students, but we are here to aid in their growth and development.”
Last year, out of the 247 referrals that were received by student judicial services, only 12 resulted in violations of the university’s code of conduct regarding the use of illegal drugs. A student under the age of 21 committed each of the 12 violations.
When a student is found responsible for violating the code of conduct in regards to drug use, Spratt said that there are a number of possible outcomes.
“Each review is a case-by-case basis and of course, everything depends on the severity of the violation. But for the most part, first-time offenders will be required to take part in some type of drug education program, counseling and will be put on probation,” Spratt said.
The probation is not like academic probation and it will not be recorded on a student’s transcript, but it is part of the university’s conduct probation that results from violating the code of conduct. Students who are under 21 and found responsible for violations can face parental notification.
Second offenses will most likely result in school suspension and loss of housing privileges. While second offenses do take place, they are rare.
“Once students come in one time, they usually do not return,” Spratt said.
While the university currently has a relatively low record of drug violations, campus police know that the changing demographic of the university could alter that.
“We’ve never been named the No. 1 party school in the country, but that could change,” Klingebiel said. “The university has added Greek housing and with the athletes living on campus and more students in general, the number of drug violations could change.”
But that doesn’t keep Klingebiel from having an optimistic view for USF and its students.
“As a whole, individual students are here because they want to be and drug use that does occur is recreational and not so much with the intention to break the law,” he said.