Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dartmouth's Handling of Drug Infractions

Following up his articles about Dartmouth's alcohol policy, Joseph Asch '78 wrote an opinion article about Dartmouth's policy regarding drugs. According to Asch, whenever Safety & Security find drugs, even in the smallest quantities, they alert the Hanover Police about it, who then have the ability to use a search warrant to discover the name of the student who possessed them. This differs from Dartmouth's policy during the Freedman administration which was to only notify the police if the quantity of drugs was large enough that drug trafficking was suspected. Asch concludes:

What could the Wright administration possibly be thinking?

Education should be the College’s goal, not delivering students to the local police and cutting off their financial aid. Can’t the administration find its way to an understanding that certain controlled substances in small quantities constitute a victimless offense by Dartmouth undergraduates? Couldn’t Safety and Security simply oblige students to destroy offending contraband and confiscate any drug paraphernalia that officers might find in the course of their rounds?

Of course I am not advocating that students descend into the hell of reefer madness. But why does the Wright administration come down so hard on students for an activity that is benevolently accepted at every other school in the Ivy League?

Dartmouth presents itself as acting in loco parentis. Well, we should ask just what kind of parents report their own children for a marijuana cigarette butt and a couple of pipes? And what kind of college administration, as its first reflex, turns its students over to the police and jeopardizes their present and future education?

I agree with Asch. Dartmouth has Standards of Conduct and a Committee on Standards to adjudicate offenses. Relying solely on internal measures should be appropriate in cases which involve minor quantities of drugs, just as Dartmouth does not call in the Hanover Police to arrest students every time Safety & Security come across a student who has been drinking. Whenever possible, Dartmouth should strive to have its students not be arrested.


Anonymous said...

There goes Joe Asch again, calling on Dartmouth to imitate the model of its peer institutions...

So if other Ivy institutions potentially commit crimes by possessing confiscated drug paraphernalia and failing to report crimes of possession and use they've discovered, that makes it okay for Dartmouth to do it too? I don't get it. Calling for Dartmouth to relax its enforcement is meaningless when relaxing could require Dartmouth to break the law. Ignoring criminal acts is not a "victimless crime," it makes Dartmouth itself a willing victim. And just because less-well-governed institutions do it does not make it okay, does it?

And does Dartmouth really present itself as acting in loco parentis? I thought it dropped that policy decades ago.

David Nachman said...

But the model at other schools is good and operates both for the benefit of students and the community.

The Hanover Police accepted the old policy of S&S destroying small amounts of drugs without notifying the police. From the same case that Asch cited:

Chief Giaccone testified that the policy outlined in the April 8 letter was not "particularly something that [he] was thrilled at," but that, as he told the county attorney, "this is what they came up with and this is what we’re gonna have to live with." He also testified that he was not aware of any instance in which one of his officers directed a DSS officer to search for drugs or had prior knowledge that a DSS officer would find drugs.

David Nachman said...

Another key quote:

"Chief Giaccone replied that he did not believe that DSS officers met any of the recognized exemptions to the law prohibiting possession of a controlled substance, but that, as a practical matter, he would not be inclined to charge a DSS officer coming into possession of such substances in the course of his or her duties."

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