The recent string of drug arrests within the Mary Washington community has led many students to question the frequently challenged one-strike drug policy and how it will affect the accused students.
According to Ray Tuttle, director of judicial affairs and community responsibility, the one-strike policy remains in effect even for students charged in drug-related cases off campus.
“UMW students need to remember that they can be held accountable for their actions off campus as well as on campus,” Tuttle said in an e-mail.
The UMW Drug Policy states that the University “prohibits the possession, use, providing for other’s use, manufacturing and merchandising of illegal drugs.”
According to the policy, drugs are defined as “including but not limited to: marijuana, cocaine, crack, ice, hashish, amphetamines, LSD compounds, mescaline, psilocybin, DMT, narcotics, opiates and other hallucinogens, except when taken under a physician’s prescription in accordance with the law.”
When a student breaches the policy, Tuttle said they are charged with a violation and have to attend a judicial hearing, usually conducted by the Student Conduct Hearing Board.
The board is comprised of student affairs administrators and is chaired by Tuttle. The hearing allows the administrators to understand a full account of the circumstances and the facts involved, generally before determining disciplinary action, according to the UMW website.
Since the one-strike policy has been in effect, the student body has repeatedly appealed it. Last year, junior Nick DeSarno spearheaded a protest of the policy, which caught the attention of both the student body and the administrators.
According to senior Brian DeMott, president of the Judicial Review Board, in order for the policy to change, it must first pass through the Student Senate, Executive Board, Faculty Senate and finally the administration.
“As much as we don’t agree with the administrative policy, it is university policy,” DeMott said.
Many students still speak out against the policy, despite the fact that last year’s efforts proved unsuccessful.
“I understand why [the policy] is here, but I think it’s kind of strict,” sophomore Katie Kutnak said. “I think that hardcore drugs should be one-strike, but not for something like pot.”
“Students might feel that the zero tolerance policy is unfair and some people in general might feel that certain drugs should be legalized,” Tuttle said. “Nevertheless, the current law is what it is, and our zero-tolerance policy is well publicized, so students should keep those facts in mind as they go about their lives on and off campus.”
Junior Peter Susko recognized that the policy might seem behind the times for some students, yet he also understands the administration’s reasoning behind it.
“The one-strike policy is outdated, but until it gets changed, people should realize that it’s illegal and act accordingly,” Susko said. “I’m not a big fan of being stupid.”
Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker emphasized the seriousness of the crimes.
“I hope that individuals understand that a mistake made at this level can have consequences beyond the framework of one’s educational endeavors,” Rucker said. “We want students to be safe in this community. We want them to be secure. We want them not to jeopardize their health or their welfare by a decision they make. The law is the law; please understand the law.”
–Ryan Marr and Zach Moretti contributed to this report.