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Herald poll reveals 4.1 percent of students have sold illegal drugs

Nearly one in 10 members of Greek organizations report having sold illegal drugs for profit

“I like smoking and got into drug dealing that way,” Michael said, adding that he sells half a pound of marijuana in an average week.

Like Michael, whose name has been changed due to fear of disciplinary repercussions, approximately 4.1 percent of undergraduates have sold illegal drugs for profit, according to a poll conducted by The Herald last month.

“I don’t pay attention to the profit — I just am trying to make people happy,”  Michael said.

He said he has sold to professors and administrators in addition to students. “They probably smell it on a student, or know the student smokes, and so they asked for my number,” he said.

Michael said he also sells drugs to students at nearby institutions, including the University of Rhode Island, Johnson and Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design.

“I don’t think of it as a big deal,” he said. “It’s like taking a shower — everybody smokes.”

Poll results showed that 9.6 percent of members of Greek organizations have sold illegal drugs for profit compared to 3.5 percent of non-Greek students.

“I feel like part of the Greek life aura is more conducive to selling drugs,” said one student. All students requested anonymity for this story due to confidentiality concerns.

“I feel like they are more pressured to do it since they’re in a group,” another student said.

Kirsten Wolfe, assistant dean of student conduct, expressed surprise that nearly one out of 10 members of a fraternity or sorority have sold illegal drugs for profit.

“That’s surprising because I don’t know anyone in Greek life that sells drugs for profit,” said a sophomore fraternity member. “I don’t think that niche exists in Greek life,” he said.

The poll results also revealed a correlation between race and drug dealing, with 5.7 percent of white students indicating they had sold illegal drugs for profit compared to 2.2 percent of non-white students.

“The media and common society actually associate selling drugs with people of color,” a student said.

The poll “shows how the media is hiding the truth,” another student said.

Several students mentioned “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, the required First Readings book for the class of 2019. “Because of reading that, I understand that it’s not just non-white people who are involved with selling drugs,” one first-year said.

Gender also emerged as a correlated factor, with 5.9 percent of male students reporting they had sold illegal drugs for profit compared to 2.4 percent of female students.

“You don’t picture girls selling drugs — you picture guys selling drugs,” a student said, adding that this perception is due to “every movie, every TV show.”

There were 76 disciplinary referrals for drugs in 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Department of Public Safety’s annual security report.

From January 2014 to December 2014, 60 students went through the student conduct system for drug-related charges, almost all of which were related to marijuana, Wolfe said.

Wolfe said she believes marijuana is overwhelmingly the most common drug used on campus, noting that she has seen some cases of heroin and cocaine and one case of anabolic steroids.

“We do approach marijuana violations the exact same way as other drug violations,” Wolfe said. “Even if it were to be fully legal in the state of Rhode Island, it would still remain against our policy” due to federal law, she said. “You can’t allow that on your campus or you are risking your federal funding.”

Over her two years at the University, Wolfe said she has seen no reports of student drug dealers or related investigations or punishments. Cracking down on student drug dealers is not high on the Office of Student Conduct’s list of items to investigate, Wolfe said, adding that sexual assault investigations have taken priority.

Investigations into students who have sold drugs begin with a triage, in which multiple people review the reported information for accuracy, Wolfe said. If they deem the information accurate, the student is pulled into a meeting and given five business days to issue an optional response. During these five business days, the student can create a witness list of people who will be interviewed and included in the final submission of case materials.

All cases of drug dealing have a minimum sentence of suspension, and the substance and amount sold impact the punishment, Wolfe said.

“Was this a one-time, small-scale kind of thing? Or was this a big-time operation with lots of people involved in it?  All of those things would factor into that,” she said.


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