Mistep of inquiry in residential use of marijuana leads to student scare
By VIRGINIA BIXBY
Sophomore Ariana Barrett and her roommate were looking forward to a fun evening at the Waka Flocka Flame spring concert featuring D.R.A.M. Before the concert, they wanted to stop by their dorm room. On their way to the second floor the area coordinator remarked that there was a strong smell of marijuana. Barrett agreed, without actually saying so out loud, but she thought it smelled like someone was smoking pot.
“[There] was a noticeable smell but I had no clue where it was coming from,” said Barrett. “I didn’t really question it.”
They then went off to their rooms and afterward headed to the concert. It wasn’t until the Monday after the spring concert that they and the other members of their suite received an email saying that the area coordinator wanted to meet with them, regarding an incident that occurred the night of the concert.
“In the meeting, the area coordinator blamed us for the smell and accused us of using marijuana,” said Barrett. “She told us she had to file an incident report and she really scared us about what could happen because of that… She said we might have to be seen by the Judicial Review Board.”
The experience was very stressful for them.
“We were upset and appalled,” said Barrett. “My roommates and I would never use drugs… We have scholarships and on campus jobs… one of my roommates is an athlete and could lose her place on the team for something like this.”
Barrett and her roommates spent several days racked with nerves about the state of the investigation and also wondered why anyone would have thought that they might have drugs in their room.
“We have no motive to smoke marijuana,” said Barrett. “But the area coordinator insisted it had to be us.” This situation illustrates how sometimes protocols for investigating residential concerns on campus are not always followed and this can cause unneeded distress.
According to Barrett, after the initial meeting with the area coordinator, they did not receive any more communication from the coordinator or campus housing for several days. This prompted the students to call their parents to make a request for a meeting with the area coordinator.
“The area coordinator was really rude to our parents,” said Barrett. “She didn’t want to hear what they had to say and insisted that she was right and they were wrong.”
Barrett and her roommates remained stressed for days, until they got an email on April 12 saying that the investigation was dropped. They had told the area coordinator that they would submit to a search and drug test, however none ever occurred.
“Having to deal with something I didn’t even do was exhausting,” said Barrett. “So much time and energy was not only exerted from us but our parents, as well.” Finals week is also just around the corner which only heightened their sentiments.
According to school policy, there are typically a set of steps that need to be followed before beginning an investigation. It states that when drugs are seen in plain view, the residence life staff member should contact the university police supervisor on duty. The supervisor would then decide on the appropriate action to take from there. If residents are present, staff will announce themselves and speak to the residents followed by a potential search of the area. If residents are not present, the room cannot be searched but may be secured depending on circumstances.
When asked about the breach in protocol, Christine Porter, Office of Residence Life and Commuter Student Services director said that while she could not speak about this particular incident, searches are only conducted if there is significant evidence that there was drug paraphernalia in the room.
“An incident report is an interoffice communication,” said Porter. “We document every time we smell marijuana or have any suspicions… We use them for documentation [and] we only really get concerned if we see multiple incident reports involving the same student.”
How investigations are handled can at times depend on the severity of the situation.
“We don’t take room searches lightly,” she added. “We only search if we think it is serious and there is a strong reason to believe the student has been using drugs… If students are found in possession of drugs, they can be charged and sent to Judicial Affairs.”