Substance 101: Know the law, know your rights

“Cougs helping Cougs” is a phrase student conduct and Washington State University Campus Police would like incoming students to adhere to.

WSU Campus Police said a common mistake students make is coming in to college with a expectations of cinematic grandeur and overdo alcohol consumption in social settings.

“There is a point where one has too much to drink and we see that a lot in the early months of every semester every year,” said WSU Campus Police Chief Bill Gardner.

Adam Jussel, director of the Office of Student Conduct, said the problem arises due to college being a coming of age experience for incoming freshmen.

“I think it’s very natural,” Jussel said. “Not appropriate, but very developmental.”

They’re exploring various things without mom and dad hanging over their shoulder, he said.

The common conception seems to be that WSU is a place where intoxication is just a normal Friday night. Jussel said he believes this stemmed from old history, when WSU during the 80s was considered a party school.

“The answer is to slow it down and stay reasonable and not get this idea in your head where boy I’ve been waiting all summer for this and going way overboard,” Gardner said.

Gardner said that the most common substance incoming students get in trouble for is alcohol.

The key to avoiding a run-in with the police relies on making sound, smart and safe decisions, knowing your limits and helping fellow students out.

“I always like to tell people you really are one good decision. It’s not like you have to live in a nunnery or anything like that, it just that you’re one decision from having a good time and managing yourself well,” Gardner said.

On the University’s side, the Office of Student Conduct acts as a more educational outlet for these students who run into problems. They see an average of 3 percent of the student population every year due to alcohol or drug problems.

By talking with the student rather than lecturing, the goal is to identify why the student made those choices and what can be done to avoid similar outcomes in the future, Jussel said. This often includes having the student write a reflective essay or research paper regarding the issue.

“I attend graduation every year and it’s one of those cool things to see the students that I might’ve interacted with….[who] might’ve made a mistake but then they bucked up and learned something from it,” Jussel said.

There is still some confusion in regards to WSU’s connection to the Washington state law of legalized marijuana.

The law makes marijuana consumption similar to that of alcohol, in that the consumer must be over 21, the marijuana must be bought from a legalized distributer, and it can only be used in the privacy of one’s home.

However, federal law mandates that marijuana use is illegal.

Because WSU receives federal funds, part of the University’s contingency is to reinforce the Drug Free School Campuses Act, Jussel said.

Most of the problems Student Conduct sees are in regards to students under the legal age to even consume alcohol and use drugs, perhaps because of peer pressure or out of pure boredom, Jussel said.

“But you have to make that decision at the right time,” Gardner explained. “When a party starts to go south, the drugs start to come out and the fights begin. You are one good decision from walking away or finding a different party. One decision can make a huge difference.”

“We have a responsibility to enforce the law. But for the most part, people who are really causing a lot of commotion are more likely to get busted because the officers are going to see that and go okay here’s a situation where I need to do something so it doesn’t turn in to mayhem here,” he said.

“The idea is not to bust every possible person, the idea is to keep the lid on things. Where you have a heavy party with a lot of people it takes more enforcement to keep the lid on it. Where you have a small social gathering, that’s a little different. Officers see these situations differently and there job is to keep a lid on things,” Gardner said.

The best advice Gardner had for incoming students is to keep a lid on themselves and have resources around you if decide to drink.

“A lot of this is Cougs helping Cougs. You have to help your friends out. One thing that doesn’t help that is pushing that drink, drink, drink, one more etc. That’s feeding it. It’s feeding a culture. The better culture is whoa you’ve had quite a bit, let’s make sure you’re okay,” he said.