Drug and alcohol violations steady post policy change

by Max Reyes / Beacon Staff • October 5, 2017

The number of on-campus alcohol violation referrals increased slightly in 2016, according to the Clery Compliance Report. Associate Dean and Director of Housing and Residence Life Erik Muurisepp said this change was not connected to the Good Samaritan Policy implemented last fall, which exempts students who request medical assistance due to drug or alcohol abuse for themselves or others from the usual disciplinary action.

The number of alcohol referrals increased by 15, interrupting a three-year decline in the number of violations. There were 357 alcohol violation referrals in 2013, 326 in 2014, 248 in 2015, and 263 in 2016.

“I don’t see any startling trends in the increase,” Muurisepp said.

The Clery report is an annual summary of crimes committed on and around campus. All colleges are required by federal law to publish one before Oct. 1 of each year. The college published the 2017 report on Sept. 29. The report only mentions violations of Massachusetts law, not campus policy.

Last September, the college implemented its Good Samaritan policy. While students covered under the policy do not have to go through a formal hearing, they might still be asked to participate in programs meant to mitigate future substance abuse, including the “Let’s Be Blunt” marijuana education program or an Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services Substance Abuse assessment.

The number of drug law violations increased by just one. Similar to the methodology used in last year’s report, numbers were refined to reflect Massachusetts’ decriminalization of marijuana in amounts under one ounce.

This past November, a ballot option to legalize recreational marijuana passed in Massachusetts. While state law regarding marijuana has changed, federal law and the school’s drug policies have not.

“We started talking about [legalization of recreational marijuana] with first years during this year’s orientation process, reminding them just because it’s legal in the Commonwealth, does not mean it’s permitted on campus,” Muurisepp said.

There was one drug-law-related arrest on campus in 2016, but Deputy Chief of the Emerson College Police Department Eric Schiazza said the suspect arrested was not a student.

Schiazza said on-campus arrests related to drugs or alcohol are rare, and most incidents involving drugs or alcohol are handled by The Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct and the Office of Housing and Residence Life.

Schiazza said the Department of Education's database flags any significant outliers in Clery report data. He said no information was marked in this way when he entered the numbers from this year’s report. 

“There was nothing that made it any different than past years,” he said.