most students aren't drug users but drugs are here to stay
By PHILIP A. HOUGH
California University of Pennsylvania campus police didn't find evidence of drugs on Sept. 10, at Vulcan Village when they were called to investigate; but police, students, and faculty feel the university is no different from others around the country when it comes to drugs on campus. Statistics show many college students have a drug problem.
A 2011 Core Alcohol and Drug Survey by the University Health Center, which polls students of two- and four-year educational institutions anonymously, found that over 17 percent of students living on campus "currently use (in the past 30 days) marijuana," and almost 9 percent of that same group use "three times a week or more." The national average for usage three time a week or more is 7 percent.
"I think it's way higher than that," said California University junior Josh Richards. Richards said students have seen recent legalization and decriminalization of marijuana in some states, such as Colorado, and this may make them feel drug use is more socially acceptable.
Campus police are aware of the presence of controlled substances on campus. As Officer Robert Kwiatkowski said, "Do we
have drugs on campus? Absolutely."
Nevertheless, Kwiatkowski, an officer with over five years of experience, said he believes that campus police bring the "control" to the term, "controlled substance."
Most on-campus arrests for possession of a controlled substance are handled by the campus police, without assistance from the surrounding California Borough police.
Kwiatkowski said such incidents and arrests are more the exception than the rule for university students. He said most students don’t use drugs and that usage dies down once students become acclimated to the university and to personal responsibility.
Kwiatkowski said being away from home and living independently is new to most students.
"It's a freedom some people can handle and some people have a difficult time with," Kwiatkowski said.
Some campus administrators and students plainly do not accept that there is no drug problem at the university. Donna George, an alcohol and drug prevention specialist at Cal, stated firmly, “Drugs are definitely here."
George said the numbers in the core survey indicate that "one in 10" students are
smoking marijuana three times a week or more. "That's a problem," George said.
Stephanie Southerland, a senior at the university, echoes George's statements.
"Any amount of illegal activity is a problem," Southerland said. "Any drug at any level is still going to be a problem."
George, with the CORE survey numbers in hand, said, "It makes you wonder how many other students are quietly going through recovery."
Southerland and George said they support an on-campus, 12-step recovery program.
George is working to implement such a support program, one that would provide aid for students already in recovery at the university. She is writing a grant to acquire funding for the program.
If a student has more support programs in place, "that student has the opportunity to change the course of (his or her) life," George said.
Philip Hough is a junior English major with a concentration in journalism and a political science major at California University of Pennsylvania. See his website at philtherealdeal.weebly.com.