In the past couple of weeks, drugs have gotten a few Quinnipiac students in trouble with the law.
Following two recent incidents, marijuana has become a hot topic at a university not typically associated with drugs.
Chief of Public Safety David Barger is confident his officers and the residential assistants are adequately trained to handle the drug issues on campus and prevent them from running rampant.
“The [residential assistants], based on their training, know what marijuana smells like,” Barger said. “Our officers even went through an intensive course with [the Drug Enforcement Agency] back in August about drugs that are found on campus.”
These training exercises have better equipped Public Safety officers to fight drugs at the university. According to Barger, Public Safety can inspect any room it deems suspicious based upon officers’ observations.
“Observations are what you see and what you smell,” Barger said. “Based on the officers’ experience and training, we, under the health and safety provision of the [student] housing contract, are allowed to conduct a search.”
While searching a suspicious room, Public Safety officers look for drugs and drug paraphernalia in order to write a report on the incident.
This report tells the facts of the incident to help the university determine what, if any, disciplinary action needs to be taken.
“In conducting [a] search, any contraband that we find, we photograph in place, we seize it and then we interview those people who live in that particular room,” Barger said. “Then prepare a report, which we send to Student Affairs and they adjudicate it.”
Public Safety and the Office of Student Affairs work as a team to resolve drug incidents on campus. Barger described the departments’ relationship as similar to “Law and Order.”
Barger explained that once the report leaves his desk, the rest of the process is entirely out of Public Safety’s hands.
“My report goes up there, and [Public Safety] has no input beyond that point,” Barger said. “We do not sanction anyone, we do not expel anyone, we do not dismiss anyone, that is all handled by Student Affairs.”
While Public Safety does not play a role in on-campus disciplinary action, it is the department’s job to call the Hamden Police Department if needed. The Hamden Police has authority that Public Safety does not possess such as the ability to arrest students and involve the American legal system in the process.
The police force is rarely necessary, however, because Quinnipiac and the Department of Public Safety can usually take care of any incidents on campus, according to Barger.
“Depending on the level of drug, depending on the quantity of drugs, we would get the Hamden Police Department involved,” Barger said.
According to Quinnipiac’s Clery Report, an annual federal log tallying crimes on campus, there have only been 13 drug-related arrests at Quinnipiac since 2009. In the same time period, Public Safety reported a total of 158 drug violations on campus, which were handled internally.
The number of drug violations at Quinnipiac has increased each year, jumping by almost 100 incidents between 2010 and 2011. The number may be on the rise as the year progresses, specifically on weekends, which Barger defined as Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We probably get anywhere from half a dozen to 10 calls on a weekend,” Barger said. “We might get six one night, and none the next.”
The most common drug found at Quinnipiac is marijuana, according to Barger. The Department of Public Safety is looking to keep the number of incidents down, but new Connecticut legislation may make the department’s job more difficult.
Effective this month, medical marijuana is legal in Connecticut with a prescription. The new law creates another dilemma for Public Safety as students may now use medical marijuana as a defense for drug possession on campus.
“We would have to check with Student Health Services to find out whether or not [a student] is allowed to possess medicinal marijuana,” Barger said.
The Department of Public Safety is constantly trying to improve drug conditions on campus. Not many drug cases at Quinnipiac are large enough to warrant police intervention, but after the recent arrests Barger said students need to be aware of the consequences.