Ohio State handles alcohol and marijuana possession occurrences seriously, but also tries to make any disciplinary sanctions educational. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

When a student is caught with alcohol or drugs in their residence hall, the first thing they hear is a knock on the door.

“Does it sound like it’s coming from this room? Does it smell like it’s coming from this room?” Ezequiel Herrera, resident advisor of Busch House and a third-year in strategic communication and psychology, said. “Whether that’s alcohol or marijuana, students are getting a knock on the door.”

Underage drinking and marijuana possession in residence halls can be an especially challenging problem. However, Ohio State handles these occurrences seriously, and students should be aware of the consequences faced, Dan Hedman, Ohio State spokesman, said in an email.

University Police works to provide a safe and trusting environment for the campus, taking alcohol and drug abuse seriously, Hedman said.

“Although we do not have reason to believe that substance abuse is a pervasive problem on our campus, we continue to monitor this issue and will address concerns as appropriate,” Hedman said.

According to the Clery Report, Ohio State’s annual security report, the number of alcohol law violation arrests in residence facilities alone remained steady from 2015-17, but drug law violation arrests in dorms decreased during those years.

Alcohol law violations increased from 17 arrests in 2015 to 19 in 2016, then dropped back down to 17 in 2017. In comparison, drug law violations decreased from 12 arrests in 2015 to four in 2016, but slightly increased to five in 2017.

On the other hand, disciplinary referrals for alcohol law violations in residence facilities were in the thousands. Alcohol law violations went from 1,587 referrals in 2015 to 1,890 referrals in 2016. The referrals went down to 1,821 in 2017.

The number of disciplinary referrals for drug law violations increased from 191 referrals in 2015 to 214 referrals in 2016, and up to 225 referrals in 2017.

Residence hall staff record incidents that violate the Code of Student Conduct and/or the Residential Living Handbook. A referral is then made to the relevant university office to determine an appropriate response. Based on the circumstances, staff might also contact University Police, Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Office of Student Life, said in an email.

“Any marijuana or any contraband that are drug substances has to have the police called,” Herrera said. “Once students smoke it, a lot of the evidence is gone.”

When a student is found to have violated the Code of Student Conduct, sanctions are imposed based on any aggravating and mitigating factors present in that case, Isaacs said.

Herrera said that sanctions are meant to be educational and not punitive, with the goal being to help students understand what’s happening.

Sanctions can range from educational programs through Student Wellness in the Office of Student Life or completion of an alcohol or drug assessment with a licensed counselor to disciplinary sanctions, which may include formal reprimand, disciplinary probation, suspension or dismissal, Isaacs said.

“If that means you have to get kicked out of housing, if that means you are suspended or even dismissed, everything is educational,” Herrera said. “We hope that it will better you.”

Lauren Zacharyasz, a first-year in public affairs, said when living in a residence hall students should be aware that underage drinking and drugs not only affect themselves, but also those living with them.

“What if someone has really bad asthma or another condition that could trigger an attack or something?” Zacharyasz said. “People should be conscious that there are other people in this building who could be negatively impacted.”

Ohio State offers students options to live substance-free, including various student organizations and community engagement, such as Student Life’s Collegiate Recovery Community, which offers a variety of substance-free events and activities throughout the year including alcohol-free football tailgates.

“We’re here to make you safe and we’re here to build those relationships,” Herrera said. “I am here to make sure that we are providing an extraordinary experience for students.”