Blowing Smoke

Cartoon by Mike Sheinkopf.

SUNY New Paltz has recently been ranked No. 1 on Project Know’s list of on-campus drug arrests per capita among colleges nationwide in 2013, as reported by The Huffington Post on Feb. 2.

As a school perceived as having a “stoner” or “hippie” stigma attached to it, it is apparent to see why some may believe that this ranking indicates our campus has and has always had a prevalence of illegal drug usage. Others may perceive this data as the campus being overly policed – as we do actively have a vigilant University Police force situated on the outskirt of our campus.

Despite these ideas, we at The New Paltz Oracle do not believe that this ranking is an indication of a drug problem on our college campus, nor the result of an excess of police presence. In part, this ranking has little to do with police officers on campus and a huge amount to do with the choices that the students who attend this college make concerning drug usage.

Because New Paltz garners a two-strike policy regarding drugs, students who go here should know better than to try to get high in their residence halls. If a student is caught twice using drugs on campus, they will be expelled. It is very surprising that despite this strict policy, the number of drug arrests is so large.

According to University Chief of Police David Dugatkin, reports of marijuana odors in residence halls are the majority of drug calls that the department responds to. This odor is easily detected and they are required by law to investigate any evidence of it being kept or used on our campus. Those who are negligent in recognizing the risk they take by using drugs on this campus should consider that UPD is only enforcing state law.

We at The Oracle believe that UPD are to be commended and not scrutinized for doing their duties to the campus. If they are receiving a call, they are required by law to respond to it and potentially investigate further on the matter. Sometimes it could be drugs, or sometimes it could be an assault or another dangerous situation. It’s apparent that some college students want their freedom during their time here, but it is important to recognize the potential risks that they may be taking by getting involved with drugs either on or off campus.

We acknowledge marijuana is becoming a socially acceptable drug and is legal in some states, but our campus still has a zero tolerance policy for it and any other illegal drug. Regardless of what changes we as students may want to make to our campus drug policy, it is still illegal to be using drugs on campus.

Being that the college has just received this ranking, administration would not want to further increase the stereotype of SUNY New Paltz students being associated with drug usage. Even if we do actively press a policy change, it would most likely not prove effective in the slightest.

It is possible that other, more dangerous drugs are being used on campus as well – the sensationalism of this ranking underplays the severity of a greater and more serious problem that could potentially be present on our campus. Instead of investing time focused on changing university policies or how we compare to other colleges, more time should be allocated to programs that could help students battling substance abuse or addiction.


Editorials represent the views of the majority of the editorial board. Columns, op-eds and letters, excluding editorials, are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.