In the 2017-18 calendar year, there were 101 drug arrests on campus and 197 Student Conduct referrals for drug violations, according to Binghamton University’s annual security and fire report. But what happens after a student is caught using or in possession of a drug can depend on several factors.
According to Investigator Mark Silverio of Binghamton’s New York State University Police Department (UPD), students who get caught with drugs on campus usually end up with three outcomes: being charged, where they are arrested and sent to Vestal Town Court, being referred to the Office of Student Conduct, where students are held accountable by the University but are not charged criminally or being given a warning.
“The single biggest factor when we interact with students is your cooperation, attitude, the way you are with the officer when he’s there,” Silverio said. “If they’re cooperative and they’re apologetic and they’re sincere — they know they’ve made a mistake — that’s typically where you lean more towards warning.”
The type of drugs students are caught with, the quantity of drugs in their possession and whether a student is a user or seller also matter. According to Silverio, getting caught with marijuana, specifically less than 25 grams of the drug, is not considered a serious offense.
“Marijuana is the only one on the low-level possession where it’s decriminalized, where it’s just a violation level offense, such as a speeding ticket — running a stop sign,” Silverio said. “So we issue you an appearance ticket and send you on your way. Any of the other drugs, at all, is criminal possession of a controlled substance.”
A senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, who wished to remain anonymous, said he has been arrested on campus as a result of drug use. In his case, two officers knocked on his door because they smelled marijuana, and ended up charging him for having a forged driver’s license.
But even if students are left with a warning from officers and not arrested, they may still end up being called to the Office of Student Conduct, which receives all police reports, incident reports and formal complaints.
According to Jazell Johnson, director of the Office of Student Conduct, while her office focuses on campus-based behavior, off-campus incidents that have endangered personal safety or property can be adjudicated under the Code of Student Conduct and sanctions can still be imposed.
“The University Sanctioning Guidelines outlines each rule violation, what a typical sanction may include, various considerations in regards to if it’s a first time offense, quantity, type of drug, prior disciplinary history of the student, etc.,” Johnson wrote in an email. “This allows the office to be consistent with our sanctions as well as allow some flexibility to resolve each case keeping each student and their unique circumstances in mind.”
But the variety of factors that can impact how people caught with drugs are handled by authorities is concerning to some. Ruddy Ronquillo, a senior double-majoring in political science and Latin American and Caribbean Area studies, said two of her friends of color who lived on her floor in Dickinson Community were falsely reported twice for smoking weed and had to leave the dorms while UPD was investigating the reports.
“They were napping … when they were ‘caught’ with weed,” Ronquillo said. “The [Resident Assistant] was obnoxiously smiling and grinning about it, but they were sleeping. They had no idea what was going on. And this was the second time they had gotten written up — the first time, too, they weren’t the ones smoking. They weren’t kicked out but they had to leave the suite while UPD was going through the reports. I just didn’t appreciate how when the kids literally had nothing to do with it, they were still treated like delinquents.”
According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, while black people only account for 12.5 percent of illicit drug users, 29 percent of them are arrested for drug offenses. Additionally, black people are 3.73 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. In Pipe Dream’s 2019 drug survey, 50.8 respondents indicated that they were people of color, and felt they needed to be more concerned about getting caught with drugs than their white peers.
The anonymous student said he had to do 15 hours of community service after appearing in Vestal Town Court.
“I was assigned 15 hours of community service on campus at the East Gym — I worked with the janitorial staff and they were pretty nice,” the senior said. “For student conduct, I met with the Dean of Conduct in College-in-the-Woods and he was actually pretty cool about it. The student conduct person told me that no [Resident Assistant] reported it and no other resident on the floor reported it, but it was obviously just bad timing.”
According to Johnson, a majority of the drug cases at BU are lower-level violations, which students can reduce if they successfully complete the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Program (ATOD), which provides students with an assessment to learn more about their alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use. Students with more than one violation are connected with BASICS within the ATOD program, which offers a more intentional intervention.
“Binghamton University has great students and majority of our drug cases are lower level violations where students are not facing suspension and expulsion,” Johnson wrote. “In the event we do have higher level drug cases, the Office of Student Conduct determines the policy violation(s) and considers guidance from the University Sanctioning Guidelines to hold students accountable and help them make better choices in the future either at Binghamton University or elsewhere.”