Community service, marijuana intervention sessions, essays and parental notification all possibilities.
In May 2016, a male Loyola student was caught smoking weed with two friends in a dorm room. Two years later, a female student was caught smoking in a dorm.
While Illinois prepares to legalize recreational use of cannabis, Loyola’s policy toward the drug is unlikely to change because the school receives federal funding. Because of Loyola’s federal funding, it must follow federal drug laws. These students’ cases show how students caught smoking on campus are disciplined and how Loyola’s disciplinary process fits within drug laws at the local, state and federal levels.
In 2016, a group of first-years took precautions against the smell traveling through the halls of the dorm by laying a towel under the door, the male student said. The group spent around 15 minutes smoking and 10 minutes later, they heard a knock at the door.
Resident assistants (RA) knocked on the door because the group’s music was too loud. But as soon as the door was opened, they smelled marijuana, the student said.
The room was searched by the Loyola Department of Residence Life staff and they found marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a bottle of vodka. Loyola’s Campus Safety Department was called and 45 minutes later, Campus Safety officers arrived to take all of the contraband, according to the student.
Later, Loyola said the student violated a number of the school’s policies, including consuming or possessing alcohol under the age of 21; being in the presence of drugs; possession of drug paraphernalia; possession or use of drugs; being in the presence of alcohol under the age of 21; quiet hours noise violation and possessing prohibited items, according to the student’s conduct record, obtained by The Phoenix.
“Honestly, it seems like they slapped me for a lot,” the student said, adding that the possession of alcohol violation seemed unnecessary considering he didn’t know it was in the room.
In the female student’s case, she said she was “pregaming,” with a group of friends in a dorm room they’d smoked in earlier that day. The group was listening to “pretty loud” music and drinking when RAs knocked on the door, she said.
The group scrambled to hide everything but the room was searched, the student said.
When the room was searched, a pink bong, bottles of alcohol and a gram of cannabis were found, the student said.
“We were all pretty anxious,” she said.
In Loyola’s Community Standards, drug offenses are separated into three categories based on the severity of the charge, according to Stacey Jaksa, the director of Loyola’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.
Possession or use of illicit drugs falls under the less severe category B while manufacture, sale, transfer or distribution of illicit drugs are category C, Jaksa said.
Eventually, Loyola found the male student responsible for possession of drug paraphernalia and possession or use of drugs, according to his conduct record, obtained by The Phoenix.
As a result of his violation, he had to complete 15 community service hours, write a letter about his conduct, go to two drug intervention sessions and and a letter was sent to his parents.
The male student said he fully understands the punishments he was given, but some of it felt like too much. Especially the intervention sessions, which Loyola calls “Motivational Intervention for Marijuana,” (MIM).
The female student was found responsible for being in the presence of drugs and alcohol. She had to write an essay about the incident, answer survey questions and a letter was sent to her parents, she said.
“I think [the drug policy] is reasonable enough,” she said. “I don’t like the letter being sent home. I fought against that.”
Not all violators of Loyola’s drug policy are sent to Motivational Intervention for Marijuana, Jaksa said. Only the male student had to attend MIM sessions.
“Violations fall into differing categories, so the outcomes, which may include a MIMs referral, are determined based on the specific violation type and considering the student’s conduct record,” Jaksa said in an email.
At the session, the male student said he was asked questions such as “Is there anything going wrong in your life right now?”
While he sees the need for some people to get help for their drug habits, he said he wasn’t using drugs to escape from something, just trying to have fun.
“You never know someone’s situation, so if you catch them in ‘inappropriate conduct’ it makes sense to ask these questions,” the student said. “I think for my personal case, it was overkill. But that’s not what it’s about, it’s about helping people who need it.”
The male student said he also understood the community service he was required to do because it turns the negative into a positive.
“Service hours is making something productive out of being punished,” he said. “They didn’t humiliate us or anything. It was productive sanctions, it makes sense.”
While the student said he no longer smokes weed, the incident his first year at Loyola continued to have repercussions. Especially as he applied to law schools.
“Three years later, for every law school application, every school asked if disciplinary action was needed and I said ‘Oh, shit, this thing three years ago,’” the student said. “I get it, it’s on me, but it’s still a bummer.”
When the students were punished for violating Loyola’s drug policy, cannabis had been decriminalized in Chicago. But as Illinois considers legalization recreational use of the drug, Jaksa said Loyola could consider changing the punishment policy in a way to best help the needs of all students.
“Marijuana will remain a Drug violation in the Community Standards as it is considered an offense under the Controlled Substances Act, a federal law,” Jaksa’s email said. “If marijuana becomes legalized in the state of Illinois, it is possible that we would review the outcomes we currently use to ensure outcomes address that change while still providing robust outcome packages, including educational interventions, for students who violate the Drug policy.”