Consequences laid out for common drug violations

Students will be able to reference a guide outlining disciplinary actions for common drug violations by this fall, as GW streamlines its judicial policies.

The flow chart will help students decipher consequences for drug use and possession, including potential punishments based on drug type, quantity, distribution concern and history of violations, said Assistant Dean of Students Tara Pereira. First-time drug users could earn an administrative record, mandatory substance education, a $50 fine and a conversation with one of the University’s judicial staff members.

The consequences reflect a broad philosophical transition by the University toward education and prevention, with less focus on disciplinary action for students.

“We don’t need to bang them over the head for two weeks about it – that’s unnecessary, ” Pereira said of students who lack a previous judicial history. “We have a very abbreviated process for them.”

The minimum punishment for students caught with drugs is on par with possible consequences for alcohol violations, outlined in the University’s alcohol flow charts released last fall. Pereira has led the University’s yearlong efforts to streamline its judicial policies, making them more transparent to students.

About 90 percent of drug violations are students caught with possession of marijuana, University Police Chief Kevin Hay said.

Generally, Pereira said, the cutoff for pot is one ounce. If a student has no record of previous violations and is caught with under an ounce of marijuana, she added, punishment will be less severe.

Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana, or any quantity of another drug, is automatically considered a major offense and would likely lead to a suspension, especially if there are signs of distribution, including prescription drugs like Adderall.

Students with multiple offenses could face loss of housing or probation. Students can be placed on disciplinary probation, restricting them from going abroad, working on housing staff or Colonial Cabinet or participating in an NCAA sport, for three, six, nine or 12 months as opposed to one-year increments – the standard probation period in years past.

A series of alcohol-related policy charts were released in October entailing punishment for college-age offenses common at the University including party hosting and hospital transports. The drug charts will mirror the alcohol tables already released, Pereira said, but the messages related to drugs and alcohol will remain separate because “we don’t have much tolerance” when it comes to drugs. Those cases will most likely lead to suspensions.

“The approach of the University is not to say ‘don’t drink,’ ” Pereira said. “We know [students] are going to do it, so we’re going to put things into place to allow them to do so as safely as possible.”

Hay said potential police consequences for students caught with drugs differ based on the case.

“Things that we take into consideration would be, is it something that’s small enough that it could be considered personal use? Is there packaging? Is there indicia of drug sales – scales, baggies, things like that?” he said.

While UPD oversees the action of referral and potential arrest, Pereira said the department has “no say in the punishments and sanctions” and those with the most say are University justices – comprised of faculty, staff and students – who make recommendations on the incident and what they believe is factual.

The Office of Civility and Community Standards and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities – which combine to form GW’s student judiciary system following the split of Student Judicial Services last year – plan to use Colonial Inauguration to promote their reformed ideas on substance usage.

The policies will be presented at CI alongside Living in the Green, a multi-year campaign announced in March to promote safe habits and healthy lifestyles.

Pereira said educational palm cards would be handed out to parents and students – encouraging the new college attendees to act civilly and responsibly – while presentations would be directed away from facts and toward making educated decisions when it comes to drugs and alcohol.

Matthew Kwiecinski contributed to this report

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