New statistics bring large-scale 2012 drug busts to light

Dylan Bassett | Contributing Reporter

New statistics released by Washington University show that referrals to the judicial administrator due to drug policy violations more than tripled between 2011 and 2012 following a string of busts.

The numbers are significantly larger than in previous years due to a single investigation in spring 2012 that led to 49 referrals and more than a dozen expulsions and suspensions. According to the Office of Public Affairs, seven students were permanently withdrawn from the University and 13 others were suspended as a result of drug-related referrals.

That spring 2012 drug bust arose after a student was arrested for a non-drug-related crime and she was also found to be using heroin. Her phone was then searched, and she was found to be in contact with a number of other students about substance usage, which led the University to conduct its largest drug investigation in years.

Don Strom, chief of the Washington University Police Department, said the numbers are not necessarily indicative of a trend of rising drug use on campus. He noted that a vast majority of the drug law violations were for possession rather than use.

“[It] isn’t like it was a drug ring…we just sort of got into the culture of what some of the drug activity was,” Strom said. “We have not had an investigation like that since then, but I don’t think that necessarily means the drug problem went away. And I don’t think that it did.”

Most of the drugs found were ecstasy, marijuana and prescription substances like Adderall.

Despite the high number of drug-related referrals, there were few arrests. Strom explained that WUPD usually does not forward drug cases to a prosecutor unless students are caught in possession of felony amounts of illegal substances.

Each year by Oct. 1, WUPD on the Danforth Campus and Protective Services on the Washington University School of Medicine campus must submit reports to the Department of Education and the general public via their websites. They are required to submit crime data under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

“The Clery Act requires the University to disclose certain crimes reported to the WUPD, Protective Services, a campus security authority or local law enforcement, regardless of whether the report is investigated, the victim presses charges or the alleged perpetrator is found guilty. The University must also disclose the number of disciplinary actions initiated by campus officials for violations of liquor, drug and weapons laws,” Jill Friedman, vice chancellor for public affairs, told Student Life in a statement.

Although some may interpret the rise in drug referrals as the fruition of an attempt to crack down on drug use and possession, Strom noted that WUPD only investigates drug situations to which it is tipped off.

Sophomore Arjay Parhar does not believe that drug use is a major problem at Washington University, though he did voice some concern with the school’s drug policy.

“I think that we’re more tame about drug use than other schools, and I think that hard drug use isn’t super prevalent here,” he said. “I think that Wash. U. has a really good policy on alcohol because they try to emphasize protection more so than enforcement, but they don’t really have that when it comes to drugs.”

Junior Alexandra Neuman likewise thinks that the University’s policy toward drugs is unfair when compared to its rules on alcohol.

“I think the leniency and understanding with alcohol should be the same as with drug usage,” she said. “It seems like there’s a severe lack of a warning system. I think the University tends to make examples of people when it comes to drug use, and it doesn’t seem like a good way of going about it. I think the drug use here is a regular amount and, if anything, less than other schools.”

With additional reporting by Divya Kumar and Michael Tabb.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.