Res Life ups enforcement of pot rules

By Jonas Buck

The number of reported marijuana violations in the sophomore dorms-Wallace, 30 Mac, and Bigelow-has significantly increased this school year, college officials said.This has prompted Res Life officials at Macalester to tighten their enforcement of the college’s marijuana policy, administering disciplinary probation more strictly for a second offense.

One consequence of disciplinary probation is the loss of study abroad privileges, an especially severe penalty at a school where more than 60 percent of students study abroad during their college career.

Concerns that such punishment would be administered for a first time offender are unfounded, officials say.

“For a first time violation to result in disciplinary probation, it would have to be pretty egregious,” said Director of Campus Life Keith Edwards. He said such an incident not happened during his time at the college.

However, the recent surge of infractions in the sophomore dorms has increased administrative concern on the matter. In some instances, repeat offenses have reportedly taken place less than one week from the original infraction.

“If students are telling us it’s a joke, we have to move to other things,” said Keith Edwards.

Reported drug offenses have increased dramatically in the last few years, according to the college’s annual campus security report, released in October. In 2008, the last year for which data is available, there were 124 drug violations on campus, up from 59 two years before, an increase Res Life officials attribute to better reporting practices.

Technically, a student can receive disciplinary probation for a second offense, but that policy has not been strictly enforced in the past. This has changed for sophomores, said Michael Klitzke, Residence Hall Director for Wallace, 30 Mac, and Bigelow.

“We’re just enforcing the policy that’s already there,” Klitzke said. “It’s not like I’m making this huge policy change or unilaterally changing marijuana culture on campus.”

“Our plan is not to prevent people from studying abroad, but disciplinary probation does impact that ability,” Edwards said.

According to the Macalester Student Handbook, the school’s marijuana policy “exists within the context of all current local, state, and federal laws.”

Res Life officials say they stepped up enforcement because of the impact they see from smoking in the dorms.

“I think anytime you introduce a strong smell into a community, that’s a problem,” said Klitzke, referring to the most common complaint he has received.

“People are wanting to move out. I think that is a pretty significant impact, when students are complaining and feeling that nothing can be done,” he said.

Res Life posted large comment boards in the sophomore dorms for students to write their opinions on the matter. Positions taken on the poster ranged from extreme ends of the spectrum, some students even using the board to debate the illegality of marijuana.

Many students have suggested pot smokers should simply take it outside where the smell would not radiate into other rooms. All but a few of this year’s recorded infractions have taken place indoors. When they do take place outside, it is generally a security guard who comes across the offender rather than an RA.

Macalester is also reviewing a new online model for second time offenders, which is a more time-consuming process than the current online model, e-TOKE, a Web-based program that offers personalized feedback for marijuana users.

Current policy for first time offenses will remain unchanged. This involves consequences ranging from compulsory completion of e-TOKE, meeting with a hearing officer, and residence hall probation.