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.