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Disciplinary referrals decrease dramatically

Lewis & Clark’s Clery reports from the past three years show a consistent and dramatic decrease in disciplinary referrals for liquor law and drug violations starting in 2017, corresponding to a change in Campus Safety leadership.

The reports are publicly-available annual summaries of campus crimes and security policies. They are required by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

In 2016, there were 219 referrals for on-campus liquor law violations. Referrals fell to 180 in 2017 and then from 159 to 79 in 2018-19. 

Drug-related violations fell from a high of 245 in 2015 down to a mere 56 in 2019 — less than a quarter of the violations reported four years previously. 

Campus Safety did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

LC is not unique in experiencing a decrease in disciplinary referrals over the past few years. Reed College reported a drop in referrals for liquor law and drug law violations during the period of 2016-18. Reed’s Director of Community Safety Gary Granger said the drop may be due, in part, to the college beginning to take students’ disciplinary records into account during the admissions process, as reported by The Reed College Quest, the institution’s student newspaper. 

Although LC did not implement explicit policy changes in its approach to law enforcement over the past five years, changes in leadership can provide opportunities to modify enforcement practices. 

There has been a high turnover in Campus Safety leadership over the past five years. The drop in referrals occurred in 2017, the same year Donna Henderson took over from Tim O’Dwyer as director of Campus Safety, and the year Wim Wiewel became LC’s president. 

Henderson’s master’s degree in counseling psychology, combined with over two decades of experience at the Portland Police Bureau, made her an attractive candidate for the college’s Campus Safety department. 

When Henderson resigned in Spring 2020, John Harvey, Campus Safety supervisor, took over as interim director. Steven Greig, the current interim director of Campus Safety, gained his position following Harvey’s retirement in December 2020. The administration is still looking for a permanent director. 

“There are certain positions on college campuses that are somewhat difficult to fill, and the Campus Safety director is one of those positions,” Robin Holmes-Sullivan, vice president of student life and dean of students, said. 

According to Holmes-Sullivan, the difficulty in filling the position is mostly due to market factors because similar positions tend to receive better pay in the private sector. Additionally, candidates’ interests sometimes align more closely with law enforcement, which does not necessarily mesh with the goals of a campus safety department. 

Holmes-Sullivan said she was un-aware of any change in policy instituted or implemented by Henderson, who became director of Campus Safety prior to Holmes-Sullivan’s arrival at LC. Instead, she emphasized that the administration’s approach to alcohol and drug use has not changed.

“I do think that we have, and will continue to take, an educational approach with our students,” Holmes-Sullivan said. “Part of the process of being a college student and coming into adulthood is learning and taking responsibility for your actions. And so we always, just like most colleges and universities in America, take an educational approach to make sure that our students understand what’s expected of them, how to keep themselves safe.” 

LC’s alcohol and drugs policy allows the consumption of alcohol for students 21 or older but prohibits its consumption by underage or intoxicated students. Other recreational drugs are prohibited regardless of the user’s age. Following federal law, LC does not allow the consumption of marijuana for recreational or medical use, even though recreational marijuana has been legal in the state of Oregon for adults 21 and above since 2015.

Ciara Orness ’22, a resident career advisor (RCA) for the on-campus apartments, said different RAs have different approaches to dealing with low-level infractions by residents. While RAs are required to submit a report for every infraction, some prefer to deal with minor instances by themselves, without involving Campus Safety officers.  

“There’s been a push amongst RAs — not from the administration — not to call Campus Safety,” Orness said. 

Holmes-Sullivan said that if an underage student is found to be in possession of alcohol in the residence halls, they receive a warning and a reminder of LC’s alcohol and drugs policy. The student might be referred to educational prevention classes.

The administration’s response depends on the type of infraction the student commits. Educational approaches are better suited to minor offenses, according to Holmes-Sullivan, and can turn the infraction into an opportunity for personal growth. On the other hand, serious crimes that compromise community safety merit stricter repercussions.

Low-level infractions can still easily result in disciplinary action. A sophomore who requested to remain anonymous received a referral for a drug-related violation in Spring 2020 and said they understood LC’s reason-ing behind its drug and alcohol policy.

The student had just finished smoking a marijuana joint with friends on campus when a Campus Safety officer approached them. After confiscating the remains of the joint, which he labeled a “half-smoked marijuana stick,” the officer gave the students a lecture and a disciplinary referral. 

“He seemed like he was just going through the motions of doing it because it was his job and he had to,” the student said. “I do understand the logistics of the college getting funding from the government, and it’s kind of out of their hands because the federal law is still that weed is illegal.” 

While LC’s Clery report gives important information on campus safety measures and accurate statistics on documented crimes and infractions, it does not necessarily reflect student behavior. Illicit activities that receive nothing but a warning, or are not caught in the first place, appear only between the lines.

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