The Huffington Post recently released an analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education on statistics of on-campus drug arrests at colleges across the nation. SUNY New Paltz ranked No. 1 for the nation’s highest rate of on-campus drug arrests per capita for 2013.
The information was derived from the “Drugs On Campus” report by Project Know which is, according to The Huffington Post, a website which provides information about drug addiction help and drug and alcohol arrest statistics on college campuses annually. SUNY New Paltz received the No. 1 rank with 105 on-campus drug arrests in 2013, averaging 13.9 arrests per 1,000 students. In 2012, the college was ranked No. 107 with only 24 on-campus drug arrests.
“The numbers definitely spiked in 2013. There’s no arguing that,” University Chief of Police David Dugatkin said. “There are certain reasons for this spike that we know of and several that we just don’t. My officers are out there taking a proactive stance when a call is received about marijuana use. There is marijuana out there to be gotten and it’s on every campus.”
The drug policy at SUNY New Paltz uses a system where a student arrested for marijuana possession will be expected to attend drug awareness seminars and put on probation. Additionally, said students will be subject to appear at court at a later date before a judge, should there be a full judicial process involved.
According to Dugatkin, the University Police Department (UPD) receives calls reporting the smell of marijuana in residence halls on a daily basis. Dugatkin said that often times an officer may be in the hall on patrol or doing a program for students and will smell marijuana and have to investigate.
“We are permitted to patrol inside the residence halls but not inside the rooms. You still have your right to your privacy. The only way we can enter is by law or if a college official believes there is a true health and safety risk,” Dugatkin said. “We as officers patrol our community just as any other police department anywhere else in the world. We patrol because part of our job is to ensure safety.”
SUNY Police Commissioner Bruce McBride said in the Huffington Post article the campus is fortunate to have UPD forces exclusively patrolling on campus and that SUNY drug-arrest numbers may not be “a true reflection of the amount of drug use happening on our campuses in comparison to others nationwide.”
“We looked quickly at our 2014 data and there are less than half as many arrests in 2014 than there were in 2013,” SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian said. “There’s just no indication that this is an upward trend, as much as a blip. We have no idea what produces it.”
Christian said that from looking at the police reports, most of the calls about alleged marijuana use that UPD receives originate from other students, indicating that it is the students who want to live and study in a safe, drug free environment. Christian added that when the college was ranked No. 107 in 2012, “[the college] did not make big news, nor will we on the 2014 statistic when we [fall back lower].”
According to Dugaktin, one year’s data does not show a trend and that in next year’s data, on-campus drug-arrests rate will be back down to the 50s.
“I truly do not think there is a drug problem on campus. SUNY New Paltz is no different from any other SUNY out there or any other college in the country when it comes to marijuana use,” Dugatkin said. “I believe that it shows that we have a zero tolerance and that we take this very seriously. We want to make this place safe.”
Students such as third-year studen Sen. Adriana Dulmage, do not share the positive opinion Dugaktin has on the matter.
“The war on drugs has been an obvious failure — criminalizing [marijuana] use only exacerbates the problem and ruins people’s lives,” Dulmage said. “SUNY New Paltz should focus their ‘zero tolerance’ efforts and resources towards rehabilitation and treatment for drug abuse and addiction.”
Dulmage agrees with Dugaktin concerning the opinion that SUNY New Paltz is no different from other college campuses when it comes to drug usage among students. According to Dulmage, the Huffington Post article is a reflection of how over-policed the campus is and how poorly UPD is utilized.
“More cops means more arrests,” Dulmage said. “Marijuana is not as serious of a drug compared to harder drugs like heroin or cocaine, but it is much easier to detect if someone is using marijuana. The administration is wasting our resources and tuition on complete nonsense.”
Statistics from the report from the Huffington Post as well as additional information can be found on projectknow.com.