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College releases federal drug and alcohol regulations: Grinnell particulars differ from national standards

By Zane Silk
silkzane@grinnell.edu

Grinnell College students received an email informing them of the typical sanctions for drug and alcohol policy violations on Sept. 29 from Sarah Moschenross, Dean of Students. The list of repercussions struck some as surprisingly lenient. Particularly noteworthy was that in the email, the sanctions for both the first and second instance of student possession of marijuana for personal use included no mention of police involvement. However, Moschenross clarified that template required in the email did not fully capture the College’s policies.

“If we saw marijuana or paraphernalia in a person’s room, we would still call the police just like we would if we saw hard drugs,” Moschenross said. “It doesn’t give us an opportunity in this template to say that if we know about a person using it, it’s different than if we see a person with the drugs.”

Under the federal government’s Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, the College is obliged to release an annual notice to students, staff and faculty indicating the health risks, disciplinary sanctions, laws and treatment programs available in regards to the illicit use of drugs and alcohol. According to the federal Clery Act and Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, the College also must annually release security and fire safety reports, which were published the day after Moschenross’ email.

Another problem with the federally mandated template is that while there is a column for fines, Grinnell College does not apply fines for any of the violations listed.

“We believe in a conduct system that’s non-punitive, and to assess fines to students would be a punitive conduct response. It’s not a best practice, and it disproportionately hurts people in low-income categories,” Moschenross said.

“That column about fines is there because that’s what a lot of colleges do,” said Jennifer Jacobsen, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Wellness and Prevention.

In terms of police involvement, the College makes a distinction between cases where staff simply have knowledge of drug use and cases where staff come across visible evidence of illegal drugs or paraphernalia. The commonly imposed sanctions in Moschenross’ email apply more to the former cases than the latter.

“This is just saying these are the possible outcomes — it could involve police, it might not, it might involve suspension or it might involve a drug abuse evaluation,” Moschenross said. “So these aren’t black and white, I apply this to that — it’s all contextual. So if we find out a person is using hard drugs that doesn’t mean we’re going to call the police, but we would if we saw it in a room, just like with marijuana.”

A new addition to the notice this year is mention of Marijuana BASICS, which is a brief motivational interviewing intervention program that is being piloted at the College in cases of marijuana use. Marijuana BASICS is modeled after Alcohol BASICS, a program for cases of alcohol abuse that is now its second year at the College. Also new this year is Ever Fi, which is replacing My Student Body as the online educational program for incoming first years on the topics of alcohol, drugs and sex.

“[Ever Fi’s] more culturally aware than what we were using with My Student Body,” Jacobsen said. “[Ever Fi] doesn’t ask you to indicate whether you are male or female, it actually gives kind of the whole lovely, broad spectrum of how people might chose. It just reads a little more Grinnell. … It doesn’t assume that every case of sexual misconduct is going to be in a heteronormative context.”

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