By VALERIE LAPOINTE
In the wake of the multiple drug arrests made this semester the university’s one-strike policy has been a controversial issue, even coming during the Board of Visitors meeting on Nov. 19.
Douglas Searcy, vice president of Student Affairs, made a presentation of his department to the board, part of which included a restating of the university’s one-strike policy.
As outlined in the 2010-2011 student handbook, this policy states, “UMW does not tolerate the use, possession, manufacture, merchandising, or sale of illegal drugs or misuse of prescription medication on or in UMW property or at a UMW sponsored event. Violation of these policies will result in expulsion from the university.”
According to Searcy’s report to the board, no one has ever been expelled from the university under this policy, since students facing drug violations usually withdraw before disciplinary action can be taken.
Searcy wanted to reassure the board that the university’s devotion to upholding and enforcing the one-strike policy was still strong, but a few members of the board expressed some concern over the message that the policy sends.
Board member Joe Wilson called the policy “somewhat draconian” and made the suggestion that the policy be rewritten to say that students with drug violations “may” instead of “will” be expelled.
“One puff on a marijuana cigarette and you’re out?” said Wilson, “I feel like a lot of people at this table wouldn’t have made it through this institution.”
Board member Martha Leighty expressed concern that the zero-tolerance policy may actively prevent students from coming forward about a friend’s substance problems. She requested that Searcy look into policies at other colleges and report back to the board.
Searcy told the board that there was much discussion within the student body about this policy following news of the 14 students charged in the recent drug ring scandal.
“If a significant voice of opposition came from the student body, it would be brought before the board,” Searcy said.
At this time no action has been taken towards changing this policy. However, the Board of Visitors did set forth a goal of better educating the student body on the policy and the repercussions of becoming involved with illegal substances.
According to the manual prepared prior to the November Board of Visitors meeting, a task force on alcohol, drugs and sexual assault has been formed to tackle this issue.
This group will be led by Tevya Zukor of director Counseling and Psychological Services and the Director of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility.
Their goal, as outlined in the manual, is to “discuss how the UMW community can be transformed into a community of respect and caring in which relationship violence and drug or alcohol misuse find less fertile soil in which to grow,” according to the November Board of Visitors manual.
The group will meet several times during the upcoming semester, and its initial focus will be philosophical and not programmatic.
“My only concern is the signal of intolerance this policy might be sending,” said BOV Rector Daniel Steen. “But we are not retreating at this time, and I think the timing would be poor now to work on this policy.”