ANNAPOLIS – The University of Maryland’s College Park campus ranked among the top five of 50 of the nation’s largest public post-secondary schools for increases in alcohol-related arrests between 1998 and 1999, according to U.S. Department of Education data.
UMCP also ranked high in increases in drug-related violations, according to the department’s figures.
Disciplinary actions and judicial referrals related to liquor violations doubled, the College Park campus reported, and drug-related violations tripled.
Capital News Service analyzed data provided by the department, which compiled Uniform Crime Reports statistics for more than 5,000 post-secondary schools across the country.
A comparison of College Park’s figures with 49 other four-year public institutions of similar size showed that the school’s violations increased more than most other schools.
University of Maryland, with an enrollment population of 32,925 in 1998, was compared with schools having populations ranging from 17,004 to 48,906 students.
Increasing drug and alcohol use among students and several high-profile cases have forced a re-evaluation of how schools try to curb dangerous activity.
After the binge-drinking death of Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Scott Krueger in 1997, the school did an about-face, drastically stepping up enforcement. Wild parties there are a thing of the past as a result of the crackdown.
Several other colleges and universities have followed suit in stepping up enforcement.
Officials at the University of Maryland said a combination of things, including stricter enforcement and better record keeping, explain the higher numbers.
“I would hope that the university is doing a much better job training staff on what to look for and reporting potential infractions,” said University Police spokesman Capt. Don Smith.
Liquor-law violations resulting in some action by the university rose from 405 in 1998 to 829 in 1999. Drug-related violations increased from 22 in 1998 to 95 in 1999.
Nationally, 10.4 million underage drinkers reported using alcohol in 1999. Eleven percent of youth aged 12 to 17 reported using illicit drugs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
The rise in UMCP violations and arrests could be attributed to a rise in incidence of drug and alcohol violations, Smith said, but he could not separate out the value of better reporting standards and training.
Other schools reporting large increases in alcohol violations were the University of Colorado at Boulder, George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., the University of Oregon and North Carolina State University at Raleigh.
Drug arrests increased substantially at the University of Kentucky at Lexington, UCLA, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and University of Colorado at Boulder.
At College Park, students and school officials had varied reactions to the increases, and differing thoughts on what explains them.
As someone who meets daily with students referred with drug violations, campus Rights and Responsibilities Coordinator Andrea Goodwin said she is not surprised by the statistics.
“I don’t think many more students are actually violating the drug and alcohol policies, but we’ve increased the number of resident assistants in the halls, giving us more eyes and ears,” said Goodwin.
But drug and alcohol use, according to University of Maryland researcher Erin Artigiani, has increased on campus steadily since 1991, and negative attitudes about it have decreased.
Eighty-three percent of students surveyed by the University of Maryland Drug Early Warning System said they disapproved of illegal drug use in 1991, while 68 percent said they disapproved in 1998. Negative attitudes toward underage drinking also decreased.
The current crop of college students, Artigiani said, comes from a group that experimented with drugs in high school much more frequently with the rise of rave parties and use of the drug ecstasy, which contains the active ingredient 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine.
Sophomore elementary education major Patrick Byrne saw a student on his floor in Worcester Hall leave the residence hall in handcuffs recently, arrested for smoking marijuana in his room – proof of tougher enforcement, he said.
“I guess the kids take a risk every time that they do stuff illegal in the dorms, because they know that it doesn’t take much at all if they get caught,” said Byrne.
Sometimes people are just getting lazy and ambivalent about breaking the law, some students said.
“Everybody forgets,” said Byrne. “Things get to be so commonplace. People do stuff so much that’s illegal that they get lax about it, and that’s when they get caught. So I think it’s a good thing. It keeps kids in line, I guess.”
Capt. Smith of University Police agreed.
“The number of calls that we get from staff – including residence assistants – has increased,” said Smith. “It amazes me the number of people who think they can smoke marijuana in their residence hall room and nobody’s going to notice, despite the blow tubes, the fans in the windows, the towels under the doors.”
Now students are on notice: don’t let it be you.
“I think it’s a good thing, even though I don’t want it to happen (to me),” said Brian Hrivnak, a sophomore business major who lives off-campus.
“It might kind of scare them straight so that they’ll stop doing that,” he said. “Maybe it will help them out with school. But then again, like I said, it’s college.”