By Laura Malamud
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday November 4, 2002
The no tolerance policy for possession or use of illegal drugs is being enforced more strictly this year in residence halls, leading to the eviction of 16 students who used or were in possession of drugs in their halls, in what some students say is too strict of a policy.
Two of the 16 students are appealing disciplinary action.
The policy, implemented this year, states that all students who use marijuana, are in possession of it, or distribute it will be kicked out of the dorms after their first offense.
"Our intention is to remove anyone that has been caught with marijuana on the first offense," director of Residence Life, James Van Arsdel said. "If someone chooses to possess or consume drugs, they should expect to be removed."
But though the policy states students can be kicked out of the dorms on their first offense, Van Arsdel and Dean of Students Melissa Vito said that every instance should be judged individually because each case has different circumstances.
"We can never say ahead of time (that) a student will be treated in a certain way," Van Arsdel said.
When a student is suspected of smoking marijuana in a residence hall, a resident assistant will go to the area where the smell of smoke was reported and confirm the smell. If the smell is confirmed, the RA is told to call the University of Arizona Police Department.
"If we get a report that there is smoke in the room, we will go and knock; but from there it varies by situation," said UAPD Cmdr. Brian Seastone.
In some cases, if an RA smells marijuana from a room and the students in the room don't respond to a knock or an RA's voice, the RA issues the residents a Residence Life citation without entering the room, Van Arsdel said.
Whatever the circumstances may be, the parents are notified.
When a student under 21 years old is caught with alcohol or other drugs, it is university policy for the dean of students to mail out a letter to the parents.
"I don't agree with the policy. It is too much. You get in a lot of trouble with (the) diversion (program) and they called my parents, so I couldn't even keep that information private," said Peter Faustmann a pre-business freshman who was caught smoking marijuana in an alley outside Arizona Sonora Residence Hall.
Faustmann is an Arizona-Sonora resident, but said he had not been evicted as of last month because he was smoking marijuana outside of the residence hall.
The no-tolerance policy has always been part of Residence Life rules, but this is the first year Residence Life has enforced it by ousting students from the dorms on the first offense. Prior to this year, students could break the drug and alcohol rules two to three times before facing eviction.
"The policy is that drugs are not permitted and we are enforcing that policy with a little less leniency this year," Van Arsdel said. "I think that there are some students that are surprised we have become less lenient and I don't know why."
Mechanical engineering freshman Alex Ralston, who lives in Navajo Residence Hall, was caught smoking marijuana in his room in late September. He said that when the police arrived, the peephole was covered. When Ralston opened the door, the police came into the room and arrested him for possession of marijuana. The RA also wrote him up with a Resident Life citation.
Ralston said he doesn't feel the policy is reasonable compared to policies for other substances.
"I don't really think it is fair that with alcohol you get three chances and with drugs you get caught and almost for sure you get kicked out of the dorms," Ralston said.
Alcohol violations usually result in a probation period from the hall director and a mandatory alcohol education course. If a student is caught with alcohol again, the student is transferred from their dorm or expelled. But with marijuana, any student who is caught is automatically expelled.
The policies for behavior and actions vary based on how society treats these cases, Van Arsdel said.
"We do treat alcohol a little different, as society treats it different. In terms of alcohol, the law is about age. With drugs, the law is about the substance itself," said Van Arsdel.
This year, every dorm resident was required to sign a form that explains all of the behaviors or actions that will result in a student's eviction on the first offense.
"We do that so that they clearly know, in a black-and-white sense, some basic things that are clearly not OK to do in our community," said Patrick Call, associate director of Residence Life.