Posted by Elizabeth Hopkins '15
This past August, Skidmore College caught local and national attention when it made No. 1 in "Reefer Madness" in the Princeton Review. The ranking was based on a Likert scale, which gives participants a five-point ranking scale in response to a single question. Students answering this particular survey were asked: "How widely is marijuana used at your school?"
"The study is nonscientific," said Jennifer McDonald, Director of Health Promotion for Counseling Center and Teaching Associate for Health and Exercise Sciences Department. The Princeton Review does not publish the number of students or percentage of the school that participates in the survey. The Review did release the information that, according to the survey, an estimated thirty percent of Skidmore students are reported to be active users of marijuana. But this figure is based on student opinion only.
"Perceptions never match reality," McDonald said. "If you ask Skidmore students how much pot they smoke, they will give a number that's way higher than reality." The misperception of drug use at Skidmore may offer one explanation for Princeton Review's annual rankings.
"I think because Skidmore is such a small school, it's very concentrated," Aster Gross '15 said when asked her thoughts on whether Skidmore. "I do think Skidmore is geared toward pot-smokers. However, because of our size, I don't think we're deserving of the title."
Regardless of Skidmore's worthiness of the ranking, the Princeton Review's rankings certainly have the potential to perpetuate the stereotype that Skidmore has a dominant "weed culture." But the publication does not necessarily confirm that Skidmore has a higher number of drug and alcohol-related instances than any other liberal arts school.
"We looked just about as bad as everyone else," said Rochelle Calhoun, Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs. Many small liberal arts colleges like Skidmore share similar data on drug and alcohol users, .McDonald said.
Regardless of the ranking or how Skidmore compares to other schools in this matter, the administration will continue working to enforce policies on alcohol and drug use. "We do have issues with drugs and alcohol," President Phillip Glotzbach said. "It's a roulette wheel when people use drugs and alcohol to excess." One cannot predict the consequences of abusing alcohol and drugs.
Skidmore does not intend to revise its drug and alcohol policy in response to the Princeton Review rating but is continuously working to improve it. A group of faculty, administrators and students are in the process of collaborating to form an alcohol and drug task force, the goal of which will be to develop a five-year strategic plan on tackling drug and alcohol-related problems through policy, prevention and programming. The College initiated this plan before the rankings were released in August and hired consultants from outside of Skidmore in spring 2013 to review Skidmore's policies and programs related to alcohol and other drugs. The school awaits their report and continues to work on a comprehensive approach to alcohol and drug use.