The Office of Public Safety recently released the annual crime statistics for 2008. One statistic is particularly eye catching: drug use on campus has nearly doubled compared to the past nine years.
The report, dating back to 2000, shows the number of drug referrals on campus have sat around 40 and never went above 50 referrals for drug use. However, in 2008 the number nearly doubled, with 90 referrals by Public Safety for students with drugs.
The annual crime report is a compiled list of crimes that have occurred on campus throughout the year. It combines the statistics that Public Safety and Judicial Board compile throughout the year. A referral is what Public Safety gives to a student who is caught breaking campus policies which sends him or her to Judicial Board for disciplinary action.
According to Sgt. Tony Brooks, Supervisor of Public Safety, that the most common drug found on campus is marijuana and that “students have gotten bold and are now doing drugs much more openly than in the past.” He also believes that this trend in both increased drug usage and referrals is going to continue unless the College puts more pressure on students with tougher punishments against those that use and sell drugs.
Dean of Students Laura Bayless also had some worries about the statistics from the 2008 crime report. She is afraid that the College has a higher perceived drug use compared to national standards.
“The culture of the College has a relaxed view on drug use, specifically marijuana, which worries me,” she said. She said that drug use affects the students’ abilities to think critically, which then affects their school work, which should be their reason for being at the College.
Bayless said that there has not been any talk of raising the minimum sanctions for drug policy violations that are specified in To The Point, the College’s policy handbook.
Some students view the crime report and the jump in the number of drug referrals in 2008 compared to past years as astonishing information. Sophomore Colleen Simpson said that she feels that people are just being foolish, and that they are getting caught more.
However, she thinks that this means that “Public Safety and Residence Life staff are taking a hard stance on drugs, which is a good thing in making the campus safer for all students.”
Overall, the jump in drug use cannot be defined as a trend with only one year’s set of data, but both Brooks and Bayless expressed that they feel that this trend will continue to rise unless something is done to bring a halt to the number of students using illegal drugs. To see the full crime report statistics for 2008 and years past, visit the St. Mary’s Office of Public Safety Web site, http://www.smcm.edu/publicsafety/annualreport.html.