College students are dual citizens when it comes to public safety

College students are dual citizens when it comes to public safety

As college students, we are dual citizens, held to the standards of the community that surrounds our college and to the standards of the college itself. And in most cases, the student label carries more weight. Because of this, the worst thing that usually will happen to you if you break the law as a college student on campus is that you will be kicked off that campus and potentially be expelled.

This is largely because, after you sign a student code of conduct, "breaking the law" becomes "breaking the rules," at least as far as minor offenses go. According to the recently released Clery reports, Goucher College, Loyola University (at its main campus), Towson University, and Johns Hopkins (at its Greater Homewood Campus) each referred hundreds of students for disciplinary action because of liquor-law violations, but only Towson and Loyola had any students arrested for those same violations. And those arrests were incredibly minimal in terms of the overall student population: Between the years of 2011 and 2013, approximately 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent of the students at Towson and Loyola, respectively, were arrested. Four Morgan State students were arrested in 2011 for alcohol violations, but the number of students referred to disciplinary action never broke 10 for the three years in question.

Actual arrests are more likely for drug violations at these schools, but are still virtually nonexistent. Out of these four schools, only Loyola did not have students arrested for drug violations. The highest proportion arrested for drugs was 0.7 percent of students at Goucher College in 2013. Out of people who ran into trouble with law enforcement for drugs, Towson's report shows that more people were arrested than referred for disciplinary action. Morgan State was the only school that regularly had more students in trouble in some capacity for drug violations than alcohol violations, though both rates were low.

Moving off campus, it seems, would be a logical way to avoid having to deal with public safety. But thanks to each university's student code of conduct, as a student of the university you are liable to be punished by the university even if you are living off campus. Code of conduct also, in some cases, provides restrictions to off-campus housing. Loyola and Goucher are, again, the outliers to these policies in that they are the only two schools that have restrictions for living off campus. Loyola students are prohibited from living on their own in quite a few of the affluent communities (Roland Park, for example) that surround the college because of a contract that was struck up between the university and those neighborhoods. Goucher students are technically required to live on campus all four years, though there were a few exceptions, such as marriage.

Perhaps the four-year residency requirement plays into the fact that Goucher currently leads the board in terms of the percentage of the student population that received with alcohol and drug violations. At approximately 11 percent in 2011, the college has disciplined its students most regularly for alcohol-related issues. And while Loyola in 2013 also disciplined around 11 percent of its students for the same reason, that number sharply increased from around 5 percent in 2012 and 6 percent in 2011, as opposed to Goucher, whose rates have decreased steadily, with approximately 9 percent in 2012 and 8 percent in 2013. Though these two schools report the highest level of alcohol-related issues, Loyola has disciplined far fewer students for drug violations than Goucher; less than 1 percent compared to a generally stable number around 2 percent.

Interestingly, Goucher and Loyola are also the only two schools out of the five discussed so far that clearly outline the sanctions that will result from a disciplinary hearing. Most other schools simply list the potential outcomes, but Loyola and Goucher specifically offer their sanctions for each offense in documents easily accessed from their websites. While your first underage drinking charge at Goucher will simply land you a meeting with a student-life staff member and an educational sanction, Loyola will slap you with a $75 fine, a written reprimand, and alcohol education.

Drug violations, however, become more intense in both cases. If you are caught with the wonderfully vague amount of a "small quantity" of drugs at Loyola, the standard sanction is a $500 fine, suspension, and a substance-abuse screening and education. Apparently, this also includes marijuana. At Goucher, your first offense will cost you $100, parental notification, a meeting with a student-life member, and another educational sanction. Loyola and Goucher are also the only two institutions where you better hope public safety doesn't find you playing beer pong; if get caught playing a drinking game at Goucher, you'll have to pay a $100 fine, go on disciplinary probation, have your parents notified, and incur another educational sanction, while at Loyola you'll be kicked off campus, have to pay a $200 fine, and go to alcohol education classes.

While liquor law and drug violations are the most commonly reported nonviolent offenses, sexual assault is the most commonly reported violent offense at each institution of the five institutions except for Morgan State. And the mishandling of these cases is increasingly apparent. A recent incident at Johns Hopkins, in which a Towson student reported that she had been gang-raped by members of Hopkins' Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, gained national attention and is a prime example of how colleges can mishandle sexual assault cases. Morgan State is also under federal investigation for similar issues. A large amount of variable factors contribute to the fact that only 20 percent of campus sexual assault cases are reported to the police, according to a 2014 Justice Department report, and while universities have an incredible opportunity to be more supportive of survivors of rape than the police will, it also allows the incident to more easily get swept under the rug or be turned into an academic issue. Someone found guilty of sexual assault by a college disciplinary board cannot be sent to jail by that disciplinary board, just quietly expelled from the institution. The issue is contained within the boundaries of campus.

All of this boils down to the fact that because we represent the college, if we get in trouble, it's bad press. Though sexual assault is a much more serious issue than underage drinking, institutions seem to keep the handling of both of those issues as insular as possible. While that benefits the poor freshman who got caught with a beer in his hand, it's not so great for someone who has just suffered a sexual assault and runs the risk of having that incident taken less seriously than it should be.

Threatening the completion of our degree instead of our removal from society allows for campus security to keep college students in line while leaving room for them to act out with low long-term legal risks so that students can keep attending the institution and then get a job after like they're supposed to, except for in severe cases—and it saves the college's own face. If they can contain the loudest and most problematic of the college students, then the administrators can post pretty photos to the website and tout their academics while the problem students are drinking Everclear and then setting their breath on fire. And that's the one of the best-case scenarios. •

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