Lawsuit threatens UVM

19-year-old UVM second year student Ian Collins was facing suspension for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia before he threatened UVM with a lawsuit for an unwarranted search. The suspension has been dropped by UVM in the wake of the lawsuit, but Collins is not permitted to return to the UVM dorms. The suspension was issued in response to a search of Collins’ room on Aug. 26, in which 27 grams of marijuana stems, two bongs, and other drug paraphernalia were found. University officials conducted the search after they were contacted by Collins’ roommate, who complained to Jeanne Mance dorm staff members that the marijuana he smoked with Collins was laced. Collins’ lawyer David Sleigh filed a lawsuit against the University on the grounds that the search was conducted illegally. Sleigh argued that the University entered Collins’ room without a warrant and that such an act is an infringement upon Collins’ constitutional rights. The Chittenden Superior Court overruled Collins’ suspension, preventing UVM from suspending him until a judge could hear the lawsuit against the University. Collins’ case was scheduled to be heard before Superior Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford but was canceled because of an agreement struck between Collins and UVM. The terms of the agreement have not yet been made public, but Sleigh said that the concerns of his client have been met.University officials said the right to enter his room falls under the ‘Search For a Cause’ policy. This policy is a new addition to the housing contract signed by students at the beginning of each year.According to the policy, administrative entry into a student’s dorm room is permitted if two or more staff members, generally an RA and an RD, come to an agreement that there is a health or safety violation within the room. If concerned for a student’s health, the staff members would first knock on the door, and if there is no answer, they would use a key of their own to enter the room. According to the policy that preceded ‘Search For a Cause,’ it was necessary for UVM staff to ensure consent from the student before entering the student’s room. The new ‘Search For a Cause’ policy stems from “the increased number of incidents that happened last year relating to safety issues,” said Annie Stevens, assistant vice-president of student and campus life.”I’d rather have a conversation with students about their privacy rights than a parent about the death of their child. The staff has an obligation to make sure that everyone is safe,” Stevens said.Collins is attending classes and the suspension has been dropped, but he is not permitted to live on campus. “This school is sick, and I don’t want to leave it,” Collins said.