New Task Force to Look at Illegal Drugs

The following statement was sent April 13 to the campus community from Michael Whaley, vice president for student affairs.

To the Wesleyan Community:

Many of you have asked for an update on the aftermath of the drug poisoning incident of Feb. 22. Two of the five students arrested have been permanently dismissed from the university; the judicial process for the others, who are currently suspended, is ongoing.

Wesleyan is committed to providing a learning environment in which all students can thrive. The use of illicit drugs is clearly an unacceptable detriment to that environment, and our policies in this regard are firm and clear. Wesleyan’s Code of Non-Academic Conduct prohibits underage and unlawful possession, use, abuse, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol. Depending on the circumstances of a case, students who violate this policy may face a range of disciplinary actions, from being required to attend drug/alcohol education and counseling to suspension or expulsion.

We’ve been asked in recent weeks about drug use at Wesleyan and what the administration is doing about it. First, it’s important to understand the extent and nature of the problem. As I reported to the faculty last fall, survey data consistently shows that rates of illegal use of drugs (other than marijuana) are just slightly higher here than the national average for colleges and universities; and the statistics bandied about in the media reflect the fact that Wesleyan has been actively addressing drug violations, the huge majority of which are for small amounts of marijuana. Still, much as we may deplore exaggerations in the media, it’s clear that the problem of illicit drug use, which exists on campuses across the country, exists here as well. What the statistics show is that we don’t sweep the issue under the rug.

Enforcement of our alcohol and drug policy is only a part of the answer. This is a place of education, first and foremost. We make all students aware of the dangers of drugs from the very beginning – during New Student Orientation – and offer workshops and awareness events throughout the year. The university constantly strives to promote a campus culture in which students care for themselves and each other. Much more information is available on our website.

That said, this is the right time to ask what more we can do, and I’m convening a task force to look at both policy issues and educational initiatives. The group – composed of students, faculty, and staff, as well as parent and alumni experts – will identify relevant questions and issues, gather data over the summer, and make its recommendations to President Roth and me before the end of fall term.

The Allbritton Center is currently hosting a three-part series on “Drugs, Harm, and the Campus.” I moderated the first one in which we discussed drugs at Wesleyan and what we’re doing about the problem. The second of the three sessions takes place this Wednesday night at 8 in Memorial Chapel and will be moderated by Ishita Mukerji, Dean of Sciences and Mathematics. The topic will be “The Physiology of Drugs: What is Actually Happening Inside Your Body?” and three speakers will be featured:  Wesleyan’s Mike Robinson, Stefanie Jones of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Dr. Mark Neavyn of Hartford Hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine. Recordings of these sessions will be available on the WesWell website.

Michael Whaley
Vice President for Student Affairs