University of Vermont #1 in Drug Referrals

In a recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, government statistics ranked the University of Vermont as having the greatest number of judicial referrals for drug violations in the country. The article also stated that UVM was the second highest in alcohol-related referrals to judicial council. While the statistics look high on paper, some argue there is more to the story. “I wouldn’t say there is less or more of a problem than on other college campuses,” said UVM Police Chief Gary Margolis. “It’s like comparing apples and oranges.” The university handles drug and alcohol violations differently than many other schools in the nation. According to Vermont law, minor misdemeanors are civil, not criminal offenses. Most offenses are handled within the university system. Arrests are made when a student is found with high quantities of drugs or is dealing drugs. The state of Vermont “has given the university the ‘go-ahead’ to deal with this problem,” said David Nestor, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs. “A number of schools with significantly higher populations have very different ways to address it.” There is also evidence that the university has stricter enforcement than other schools to deal with drug and alcohol use. “We are trying to be very diligent in reporting crime statistics,” said Nestor. Assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs Robert Kelly agrees. “One of the reasons why our numbers are so high as opposed to other schools is because anytime there is an offense, they’re all sent to a referral.” According to the report, which ranked 6,269 schools, the University of Vermont had 998 liquor referrals and 377 drug referrals in the year 2000, along with only five alcohol arrests and 26 drug arrests, respectively. “No one’s denying the fact that UVM, like many other colleges, has a problem with alcohol and drugs,” Margolis said. “But the statistics they reported could be misleading.” While the figures could be misleading, there is still much to be done to help prevent students from breaking UVM’s drug and alcohol policy. “I believe we need to do more as an institution,” said Kelly. “We have to be proactive.” One of the issues Kelly plans to focus on is education about the judicial process and the university’s policy. Margolis and Nestor agree. “We could always be doing more to solve these problems,” said Margolis. “The solution is getting students, faculty, and deans involved.” “There is a growing number of students at UVM who are tired of being around increasing frustrations that disrupt the learning environment,” said Nestor. “There needs to be a stronger message of the damage that drug and alcohol use does to the community.”