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Hillsdale's administration needs to have a clear marijuana policy | Wikimedia Commons
Hills­dale’s admin­is­tration needs to have a clear mar­i­juana policy | Wiki­media Commons

Author’s note: Hillsdale College does not cur­rently have a “Zero Tol­erance” policy on mar­i­juana. Stu­dents who break the rules are not typ­i­cally expelled, but instead placed on pro­bation or sus­pended. With these facts in mind, the fol­lowing piece can only serve to commend the college for not expelling stu­dents on their first infraction.

Within a week of setting foot on campus, stu­dents are informed that pos­session of mar­i­juana is awarded with a day-of expulsion. The actual policy states the deans may choose to suspend or expel stu­dents who are caught pos­sessing, con­suming, or even in the presence of mar­i­juana.

Recent events, however, have shown that this is not always a black-and-white issue. In the 2014 – 2015 school year, the admin­is­tration found eight stu­dents involved in mar­i­juana use. As Dr. Arnn has explained in speeches, while stu­dents’ parents begged for the pres­ident to  give them a second chance, Arnn needed the stu­dents to apol­ogize for them­selves first. Those who admitted they’d broken college policy were even­tually allowed to return to class.

Should there be an outcry against the leniency of the pres­ident? Not if student devel­opment is to be encouraged.

In defense of the pot smokers, expulsion can prevent stu­dents from entering other col­leges to finish their edu­cation. In a 2010 interview with The College Fix, a student sus­pended from Hillsdale College said he chose not to return to the school. He was one of 13 stu­dents sus­pended for drug use in the 2009 – 2010 school year.

“A lot of my friends, their lives are com­pletely destroyed by what Hillsdale College has done to them and they have no future,” he told The College Fix.

While this student didn’t acknowledge he broke college rules, he iden­tifies the problem Hillsdale may be trying to avoid: mar­i­juana expul­sions don’t make things better. By allowing stu­dents to return to college, the admin­is­tration would encourage stu­dents to learn and develop without letting mar­i­juana determine their future.

In a 2004 interview with The Col­legian, a student com­mented on his sus­pension for a DUI and mar­i­juana pos­session. He said Dean of Men Aaron Petersen told him the sus­pension was pun­ishment for the mar­i­juana, but not the DUI. Petersen explained in a recent interview that both offenses war­ranted sus­pension at the time.

“I can’t argue with the written rules.” the student said. “The rules are clear.”

As a private insti­tution, Hillsdale College has the right to threaten expulsion for stu­dents who smoke mar­i­juana. Though the lan­guage of its drug policy is strict, the college’s relaxed attitude toward first-time offenders is jus­ti­fiable. Stu­dents are here to pursue the liberal arts, and while mar­i­juana may inhibit that goal, it does not warrant an imme­diate ejection.

As it stands, stu­dents with mar­i­juana can expect pun­ishment, but it’s clear that a respectful con­ver­sation with the admin­is­tration will prevent expulsion. The college’s present stance, based on its responses to recent drug vio­la­tions, is actually much more pro­gressive than it was in 2010.

While written rules say it is pos­sible to get kicked out of Hillsdale College even for attempting to pur­chase or smoke pot, recent events would show oth­erwise. If stu­dents with mar­i­juana are sus­pended at worst, the “zero tol­erance” policy is very tol­erant. It’s time for Hillsdale College to use a new buzzword to describe its stance on weed.

This article pre­vi­ously stated that a dozen stu­dents were pun­ished in 2014. That has been cor­rected to eight. The names of stu­dents have been removed to avoid unin­tended con­se­quences of this column’s pub­lishing.

Mr. Pap­palardo is a junior studying mar­keting and jour­nalism.