Posted by The Editorial Board
As college students, despite the fact that we attend a private college, we would very much like to believe that we do have rights. We understand that while we reside within housing provided by Skidmore, the institution has full remit to enter, exit, search, withhold and question as they see fit. We still, however, expect to be respected as adults, with our own certain freedoms on this campus. This is a belief we are justified indulging, for the most part, and it follows that when Skidmore exercises its ability to diminish these rights we feel threatened and betrayed.
As of this semester, the College has amended the Alcohol and Other Drugs Policy to include a new clause pertaining to the usage or presence of marijuana. This new section allows for the distribution of points and fines on the suspicion that a student or group of students is using the drug. Campus Safety does not need to see smoke, find any marijuana, note paraphernalia or observe students smoking. They need only to suspect, with probable cause, that the drug is being used. If there is a reported smell of marijuana and a student's room is searched to reveal a fan near the window, a towel by the door and a bottle of Febreeze in sight, this gives Campus Safety the authority to administer points without the existence of concrete evidence of usage. The presence of items that facilitate the use of an illegal substance now makes students liable.
First and foremost, there is an undeniable link here to Skidmore's recent ranking as the number one school on the Princeton Review's "Reefer Madness" list. Additionally, a consultant hired by Skidmore to evaluate their AOD policy this past year gave the College a failing grade. The implementation of this new policy signifies that Skidmore is concerned with improving the College's public reputation, perhaps more so than it is with effectively protecting and benefiting the health and well-being of its student body. The school is evidently aiming to clear its name of this reputation, and is taking what feels like improper steps in order to do so. The ability to incriminate students for marijuana possession on fewer grounds feels not only like an infringement on student rights, but an effort towards stricter enforcement rather than prevention, which, if Skidmore was truly considered about the student's health, would be the proper route. The Editorial Board feels that greater enforcement will not alter the weed culture at Skidmore - students who smoke are inclined to do so regardless of the policy change, one whose implementation will be expectedly porous and half-hearted. Perhaps Skidmore will look better under public scrutiny --which may be all the administration is truly concerned about -- but if the administration is genuinely interested in lowering marijuana use, this policy will not, in fact, benefit or deter the students.
Further, unintended repercussions may undermine, not bolster, Campus Safety. Residential Life works hard to impress upon its students that Campus Safety is present on campus for the safety of the students - their objective is not to get students in trouble. The belief is that a congenial relationship will allow students to seek Campus Safety when in need, preventing possible injury and protecting the campus as a whole. This new aggressive policy effectively undermines this cultivated image and paints Campus Safety officers as the enemy, a member of the opposite team. This perspective is potentially dangerous for students in terms of situations of crisis - it leads to greater hesitancy in reaching out to the officers even in emergency situations. Furthermore, it strains the relationships between students and their RAs who will be expected to report any and all signs to Campus Safety.
So yes, this new policy feels like an infringement on student rights and raises questions on the stalled status of the Student Bill of Rights. Yes, we, the students, lose power in that we must now accept consequences without legitimate grounds for accusation, but the school has this power, and we sign it over to them when we commit and pay our tuitions. However, the Editorial Board feels that this addition to the Alcohol and Other Drugs policy displays an effort on the part of the administration solely to improve Skidmore's reputation and ignores the desire to effectively improve the, safety, health, and happiness of the student body