Expulsions for drugs up this year

The University has suspended or expelled 15 students for drug offenses this academic year, already six more than last year’s total.

Students caught with less than an ounce of pot get the equivalent of a slap on the wrist, but violations for harder drugs – like cocaine, ecstasy, and hallucinogens – are considered major offenses. Those violations shot up by nearly 50 percent from last year, reaching 28 cases, Director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities Gabriel Slifka said.

First-time offenders charged with possession of marijuana receive an administrative record and $50 fine, and must complete substance abuse education. Students who rack up several minor drug or alcohol offenses could face loss of housing or probation.

While more students have been busted this year for severe offenses, those cases only accounted for 17 percent of the 86 drug charges as of March 20. Last year, the office tallied 119 drug charges.

Charged students face a hearing board, and the dean of student affairs must ultimately sign off on any suspension or expulsion.

But a charge through GW’s disciplinary office doesn’t always mean a criminal record. Of the 98 drug law violations recorded in the University Police Department’s crime log this academic year, only about 12 percent led to arrests.

Last week, a student was caught with “suspected” psilocybin mushrooms during a marijuana bust. UPD officers arrested him in Francis Scott Key Hall after receiving a tip about “heavy marijuana smoke” and found the other drugs in his room at The Dakota. Officers also arrested a student for psilocybin mushrooms and 40 grams of marijuana with intent to distribute in October, after discovering cocaine, ecstasy pills, marijuana, LSD tabs and drug paraphernalia on other students the month before.

Ten students have been charged with intent to distribute drugs as of March 20. In the last two years, 11 and 12 students in total received intent to distribute charges, respectively.

Slifka, who declined to sit for an interview, said the University has “a variety of resources to educate students about the dangers of illegal drugs,” but said students should “encourage others to refrain from using illegal drugs and controlled substances without a prescription.”

“The number of students documented in these types of incidents varies year to year and as a result, the number of students found in violation of a drug policy through a disciplinary process will vary year to year,” Slifka said.

Through GW spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard, University Police Chief Kevin Hay declined to answer questions about the changes in drug activity on campus, how his department is adapting an increase to the use of drugs other than marijuana or how UPD handles student drug dealers.

He touted the University’s “holistic approach” to substance abuse through education and said in the fall that the number of students reporting the sight or smell of marijuana smoke has increased.

“Some students take offense to drug use happening in their residence halls. They don’t want to be around it, and the students call GWPD,” Hay said following a streak of drug arrests in September. “As these cases are reported, we will take action.”

This article was updated March 25, 2013 to reflect the following:

The Hatchet included or drug distribution charges within the list of cases that increased by 50 percent from last year. While GW also considers distribution charges a major offense, they are not included in that total.

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