Drug Use Condoned on College Campus
By Hope Glassberg

“I got here with a little drug experience, I’ll leave with a lot more. I’d never hallucinated before I got here; I’d rarely done a line of anything, definitely never dropped any E. I have now,” said Mark*, a student at a private college in New York City.

“Recreational,” “informal,” “non-existent”: these are the varying phrases students at one private college in New York City use to describe their college drug scene.

College and drugs have gone hand-in-hand since the heyday of the 60’s, when marijuana was as essential a part of the college protest movement as a healthy distaste for authority.

But what is the drug scene at one New York City college like today?

By most accounts, doing drugs is as accepted and integral to the social scene as drinking. And marijuana is the drug du jour.

“I think for the most part people use weed and I think that there are fringe elements that use other drugs but in the mainstream it’s mostly marijuana,” Jenny, a junior, said.

Mark echoes these sentiments: “I would guess that 70-80 percent smoke weed at some point in the 4 years they are here. Probably 30-60 percent with a monthly habit, and maybe 5 percent who smoke daily. Weed is the most common and accepted drug at school.”

Danny, a sophomore, uses marijuana and says that his college experience and friends would be different had he chosen to abstain. Even so, students say the drug scene is stratified along the lines of the drugs themselves.

“I would say most if not all people abuse drugs in their own way. It is not a collaborated scene, but very split up and disjointed,” Danny said.

Stephanie, a sophomore, also says “people tend to group into stoners or coke users. The overall culture for those drugs are separate.”

Students say these harder drugs are not as common as marijuana, but are there for the taking if one wants them.

“In the past 2 and a half years, I’ve met five students who do heroin—one group of friends. [Mushrooms] are probably the second most popular, rivaled by coke. Coke users tend to use it more frequently and habitually, but it seems to me that more people are willing to associate with shrooms. Ecstasy is also quite popular, probably used more frequently than acid, as well as being more socially acceptable. K is probably the least popular of the drugs I’ve mentioned, but its presence is still known,” Mark said.

The stakes for being caught with drugs are potentially very high. The 1998 Higher Education Act (HEA) held that students convicted of any drug-related offense will be denied eligibility for federal financial aid for one year or more. Even more immediate to most students, residents caught using drugs can be subject to academic probation and can, in some rare cases, be kicked out of the dormitory. Yet students seem to hold little regard for these possible consequences. Jenny says that she often smokes weed unbeknownst to her resident advisor (R.A.).

“People still do [drugs] even with [these policies]. Even if people have strict R.A.s there are still many ways of getting around that. Like my R.A. right now, I live on a different floor so I smoke with my door wide open. There would be no way for her to know. Control is not very strict,” she said.

Mark says he has had friends who have gotten caught smoking marijuana but that “the administration does its best to ignore it.” He adds that “the anti-drug policies have never had any effect on my life.”

Sarba is a resident advisor and says she tends to turn a blind eye to her residents’ drug habits unless those habits become explicit.#

*Names have been changed to protect students’ privacy.