Drug law violations involving marijuana on campus rose significantly in 2007, according to information obtained this week by the North Wind.
The number of violations rose to 20 in 2007, up from 16 in 2006, said Jeff Mincheff, the assistant director of Police Services at Public Safety. In a typical year, the number of violations are usually in the mid-teens.
Victor LaDuke, an investigator with Public Safety, said the number of drug law violations rose in the past three years, signaling that illegal drug use is a significant issue on campus.
“I think [marijuana use] is a big problem,” LaDuke said. “I don’t think the arrest numbers are indicative of the usage. I think there’s a lot more people using it than we catch, and I think it’s an issue.”
Mary Brundage, the associate Dean of Students, said that Northern’s statistics on student marijuana use have not been out of the ordinary, or abnormally high compared to other universities.
“Spending the majority of my time focusing on student conduct, I have not been alarmed with NMU’s number of marijuana violations,” she said. “Most of the students I have met with regarding violations of our drug policy are very good people who made a poor decision. The fact is, like it or not, marijuana is illegal.”
The procedures for dealing with drug violations tend to be uniform, said Mincheff, and all cases that are opened are brought to the Dean of Students office for additional disciplinary action.
However, Brundage said there is not a specific, predetermined way of dealing with every marijuana violation on campus, and most cases are unique to each individual. The conduct system at Northern also assures that each student in violation of student code has an opportunity to discuss the infraction with the Dean of Students office.
The Dean of Students office takes drug violations seriously, which sometimes results in suspension, but there is not a “cookie cutter” approach to penalties, Brundage said, adding penalties are only determined after a face-to-face meeting with students.
Marijuana use is not a new issue on campus either. Drug law violation cases have been an issue on campuses nationwide for decades. A small percentage of crimes overall are reported, Mincheff said, and marijuana use is but one of those crimes.
Drug law violation cases are spurred by complaints, anonymous tips, or after discovery of the illegal drugs by officers, Mincheff said, adding people do not want to report or tend to ignore illegal drug use.
Caroline Blair, resident director of Gant Hall, said she is aware of the reality of marijuana use on campus. Even though marijuana is an issue on NMU’s campus, authorities don’t turn a blind eye to [it], she said
“I think we address this as we’re supposed to,” she said. “Students confront situations themselves too, and change happens when a group of people decides to talk about it. We do everything we’re supposed to do.”
Though violations of the student code need to be documented at all times, cases can often be sensitive to deal with because of personal ties between dorm staff and residents, she said.
“Students in the residence halls respect the fact that we as residence hall staff have to do our jobs,” she said. “It is personal, but we have good conversations, too. We are here to help people grow.”