Linn State Technical College in Linn, Mo., faces a lawsuit for its new mandatory drug tests for incoming students, but Ohio State officials say a policy similar in nature would not happen at OSU.
LSTC’s website states the mandatory tests are required by all “degree or certificate seeking students” who wish to enroll in the college, and “refusal to screen will result in an administrative or student-initiated withdrawal” from the college.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have sued LSTC on behalf of six dissenting students and have won a temporary injunction.
In an interview with The New York Times, Kent Brown, the college’s lawyer, said that of around 540 new students enrolled before the injunction, none refused to take the drug test.
Mabel Freeman, assistant vice president for Undergraduate Admissions and First-Year Experience at Ohio State said she does not think a program like LSTC’s would ever survive at OSU.
“As long as I’ve been involved in admissions, which is 11 years, there has been no discussion at all at OSU or any other public university about drug testing,” Freeman said. “There are 4,000 colleges
and universities out there, but I am not aware of any that do this and link it to the admissions.”
The OSU application has a section for students to list any criminal history, including drug charges. This section does factor into admissions decisions, but that is the extent to which the university looks at individual drug use, Freeman said.
Matt Keaton, a second-year student in political science and psychology, said he could see the merit in a mandatory drug-testing program for OSU like the one implemented at LSTC.
“I think it’s interesting,” Keaton said. “I think it supports a healthy lifestyle for students. I think that there’s a lot of positives that would come out of it.”
Other students are not so keen on the testing and see it as an infringement of privacy.
Joe Hocevar, a second-year student in pharmaceutical sciences, disagrees with the policy, and said he thinks it would deter many students from even applying to college.
“Drug testing would take away the opportunity for a lot of people that would otherwise contribute to their community and academic program and school,” Hocevar said.
Even though he said implementing a system would be difficult and time-consuming, Hocevar did find one positive aspect of the policy.
“It definitely would make campus safer … just because a lot of times there can be some violence over drugs, and drugs can make people do crazy things,” Hocevar said.
The lawsuits against the school are interesting because he can see both sides of the argument, Keaton said. On one hand, he said he agrees with the college’s reasoning behind the screening, but he also agrees that it may infringe on students’ rights.
“Freedom … is something that I hold to a very high level of accountability,” Keaton said. “At the same time, it’s not unreasonable to think of college as a job, so to speak, so colleges should have the same seriousness that people treat part-time or full-time jobs with, the fact that it is required at most workplaces.”
Brown said in an interview with The New York Times that because of the specific technical programs offered at the college, including operating heavy machinery and dealing with high-voltage electricity, many students graduate into careers where drug testing is frequent and mandatory.
“Well, the student body at Linn State is very different from, for example, the University of Missouri or Harvard or some place like that,” Brown said. “We are a technical college … all of these things are things we need to guard against for the safety of the students.”
Freeman said she does not see OSU adopting a similar system because of the cost and logistics involved in such a large project, but the university still takes student drug use very seriously.
“Do I think one (a mandatory drug test) is going to be a trend? No,” Freeman said. “All universities are concerned about topics like drug use, but that doesn’t mean it immediately translates to an admissions concern.”