Student seeks equal penalties for weed, alcohol

Matt Ciepielowski

After seeing one friend after another kicked off campus for marijuana possession, sophomore Ben Goodheart decided the conduct system at Quinnipiac was broken and needed fixing.

“I want to at least get the ball rolling on equalizing punishments for marijuana possession and alcohol possession, because you don’t have kids smoking tons of pot in New Haven every weekend and getting their stomachs pumped, you just have kids getting stoned and watching Adult Swim,” he said.

Chief of Security David Barger cited a study to the Chronicle that showed the negative societal impacts of alcohol abuse were more than those of marijuana.

When asked about the effects of marijuana versus alcohol on campus, Barger said, “I think you’ll see a greater cost for alcohol just because you see more alcohol. On a case-by-case basis? I don’t know, I can’t even venture a guess.”

Goodheart is in the process of bringing a chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy to Quinnipiac. He hopes to use the organization to educate students on the negative impacts of marijuana prohibition.

“Basically I want to raise awareness using statistics and facts to show that prohibition is way more dangerous than drugs themselves are,” Goodheart said.

Goodheart isn’t the only one trying to give students faced with conduct charges a fighting chance. Sophomore Devon Jerome is the president of the Quinnipiac Pre-Law Society, and he’s decided to use his legal knowledge to help students facing charges from the university.

Currently, university policy bars students from having any form of direct representation at conduct hearings. Students may have an adviser who is a member of the Quinnipiac faculty, staff, or student body, but the adviser may not speak on the student’s behalf at all.

“When you come in [for a conduct hearing], I want to have a conversation with you,” Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Seann Kalagher said. “If you have an advisor … whose only reason for being there is to be a vocal advocate for the person they’re sitting next to, that’s a barrier between myself and the student.”

Goodheart thinks this reasoning is flawed.

“That system automatically gives the school the upper hand,” he said. “Conduct officers will know way more about the procedure than a student will know. They are not giving students a fair chance.”

Jerome has stepped in and attempted to offer some sort of help to students facing conduct charges. He talks to the students to get their side of the story, then helps them write a script to give them a rough idea of what to say when the conduct officer asks for their version of what happened.

“I also talk to them about what the process entails,” Jerome said. “I tell them how they need to act, how they need to behave, and what they can expect.”

He said out of all the students he’s worked with so far, they have been found not responsible for at least half their charges.

Jerome likens distribution charges to murder at Quinnipiac, “because it’s a very, very big charge, and if you’re found responsible you can easily get expelled.”

Goodheart doesn’t think minor drug charges should automatically involve some sort of housing suspension, while alcohol offenses often end with a slap on the wrist.

“They’re deluding themselves when it comes to alcohol,” he said. “Yes, there are some people dealing, but there are also people buying alcohol for underage kids, and they’re going to end up vomiting and blacking out. And date rape is not an uncommon thing here with all the alcohol.”