Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?
Arlo Guthrie, “Alice’s Restaurant”
One of the jobs I have on campus is serving on the Disciplinary Committee. I think we call it Student Rights and Responsibility Committee, but we dish out punishments to deal with students that violate university policies. The hearings are monotonous: cheating, academic dishonesty, plagiarism, and alcohol and drug violations. Cheating is on the wane because it is harder to prove, but since the university tore down the dorms and built luxury apartments, the alcohol and drug violations are on the upswing. This should come to no surprise. Although heavy drinking can be linked to failing grades, domestic violence, and unsafe and non-consensual sex, research indicates that binge drinkers are happier. So, each week I have to listen to the lurid stories about adolescent girls passing out in elevators, eighteen-year olds waking up to find that their heads shaved, and stoners busted for weed in their dorm rooms.
My committee really doesn’t have any legal authority, per se, but we can impose some pretty heavy sanctions. If a student amasses multiple violations, we can kick him right out of school, that is, if the GPA Grim Reaper doesn’t get to him first, which is usually the case. Nonetheless, our real existence is to prevent parents from suing the university because they don’t think we’ve done enough to keep little Tommy sober while he’s away from home. We are the alibi and we are proof that the university administration is “truly committed to the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse on campus.” As Michael Corleone said, “We are all part of the same hypocrisy.” We lure them to campus with a culture that promises parties, alcohol, loud music and sex. Our recruiters don’t dispel the fantasy of the alcohol-fueled orgy and non-stop blunts; local merchants don’t dissuade students from drinking, and head shops don’t prevent students from purchasing bongs, pieces and rolling papers. However, once a student gets busted, the university responds as if this were Utah, circa 1950. My committee chairperson shakes his sanctimonious finger in their faces, imposes punishments, and urges the little shits to reflect on the errors of their ways.
The situation is pathetic enough without us having to add insult to injury. Many of the students were arrested by the local authorities and spent a few hours in jail, which is bad enough, but shame and humiliation don’t end there. The university plays a role in the disciplinary process and this drags the agony out over several months. For each case, we receive the full report, ten to twelve, single-spaced pages, describing in detail the specific violation of university policy. The only thing that’s missing is the “twenty-seven eight-by-ten color glossy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back explaining what each one was to be used as evidence.” The story is invariably the same: party, loud music, sweaty bodies grinding on the dance floor, beer-pong table in full swing, and the student has his first beer. Moments later, there is a knock at the door. The Resident Assistant on duty has come to investigate a noise violation and has brought the university police along. Since these are university residences, they don’t need a search warrant. Low and behold, everyone is underage. They are lined up, frisked, arrested, handcuffed, and taken to jail. A month later they appear before a Midwestern judge who has never danced, drank a beer while underage, nor smoked a joint. He probably used to sell insurance. This asshole drops the shit-hammer on them.
I refer to this process as being “Shawshanked,” alluding of course to Stephen King’s depiction of Andy Dufrense’s being routinely defiled by prison inmates. Once these kids face arraignment in court their folks panic and fork over few thousand for a lawyer, who lobbies for a plea bargain that won’t tarnish their permanent record. A month or two later, the kids cop to a lesser charge, receive non-reporting supervision, and pay a laundry list of fines and court costs. If the judge decides to be a complete prick, he suspends the student’s driver’s license for 90 days, even though the crime didn’t occur anywhere near a motor vehicle. This of course generates more revenue for the state because the student has to pay a reinstatement fee to be able to drive again. Once the dust settles and everyone begins to put the incident behind them, the parents get word from their insurance company that the policy that covers their house and car has been dropped because their son has an alcohol violation. In the end, they feel like Morgan Freeman’s character in the Shawshank Redemption, who when reflecting on his experience remarked, “That was the longest night of my life.”
Just like the legal system, the university is out for its piece of the action. Because the infraction also violated the university code of conduct, students have another hearing on campus. To me, it sounds like double jeopardy, but we dress it up and call it part of the “learning experience.” We call them in to the office and let them know they have the right to contest the “allegations.” Most of the time, they just confess outright. If the report says they were caught with four cases of beer, a bottle of jägermeister, two fifths of cheap vodka in the freezer, a bottle of Herring’ cherry liquor on ice, jello shots in the kitchen, there isn’t much explaining to do. We also get our share of stoners: kids who fire up a blunt full of purple thunder fuck in their dorm rooms and think that no one will notice the smell.
If they fess up, we just impose a sanction. We mandate an online class, an in-class follow up, campus restrictions, and, occasionally, counseling, all of which cost the student money and go to maintain our student services division. At the end, they have to write a paper in which they reflect on how their behavior conflicts with their values and their desire to obtain an education. As I read these acts of contrition, I wonder if the lesson what really goes on in the mind of the Undergraduate Weed Head (heretofore known as UG/WH) as he writes a paper for us. If he were honest, maybe this is what he would write:
The purpose of this paper is to fulfill the requirements of the sanction that was imposed on me by the Students Rights and Responsibilities Office on campus for the incident involving alcohol, marijuana, and consensual grinding on the night of November 9th last year. I have met with the committee, discussed my involvement in the incident, waived my rights to contest the allegations, and have completed the online course named called E-toque.
UG/WH: I don’t know what fucktard came up with a name like Etoque, but he’s an asshole. This is the same line the RA lays on you when you come in during orientation. He says, “I’m here for you,” but he is really there to bust you when you smoke a tiny bowl in your room. The stupid e-course was a waste of time. In fact, I was totally blazed while I took it and I can’t remember much of it.
Paper: In this essay I will address the following issues: how marijuana affects me, my values regarding illicit drugs and my goals for the future, and what I would do differently if I were to ever find myself in a similar situation.
UG/WH: Well, let’s get one thing clear from the start: I like weed! The stuff is great and I am not going to quit, no matter what I said in your fucking office when assholes were talking about kicking me out of the university. I love this shit. I love everything about it: how it smells, how it tastes, how its grown. I can get high by just looking at it and I post my Instagram pictures of my buds and send them as invites to my 4:20 smoke outs. And, you want to know why? Because it helps me put up with you assholes! My genetics teacher is being a condescending ass? One or two puffs later and I don’t give a shit. My parents are on the phone bitching? One hit off the old bong and end of story: I don’t have a care in the world. The stuff is awesome.
Paper: In regard to the information presented the online course, which was presented by people who were very knowledgeable, the program discuss the effects of smoking marijuana. These include: short-term memory loss, difficulty in concentrating, eating excessively, lack of motivation and poor respiratory health.
UG/WH: Yeah. Those dudes were totally fucked. Bunch of goddamn Nazis with nothing better to do than try to bring me down! Their whole spiel was bogus. People of a dozen states are toking away, and these idiots are going on talking about how weed affects your memory and motivation. I don’t remember half the shit they said.
Paper: The online course consisted of a survey that asked me about how much time I was smoking, studying, and going to class. The course also discussed how cannabis induces certain mental conditions, such as hysteria, paranoia and schizophrenia, which I was unaware of. The above-mentioned information is related to the policy that I’ve violated. I do not contest University’s allegation that I was in possession of a small amount of marijuana and several pieces of paraphernalia for which I was arrested, faced a judge and was fined a substantial amount of money. I am responsible for my actions.
UG/WH: Yep. I had half a G, a half a gram of weed. It wasn’t like I was a player in a major dope-smuggling operation. If I included the pencil shavings in my coat pocket, I might have had enough for a whole joint. Oh, and the bit about the paraphernalia? I had one pipe and one bong, and those shit heads down at the Court House fined me $250 dollars for each one. What is it with these assholes? Are they fucking illiterate? According to my English TA, the word “paraphernalia,” which comes from Greek, is plural. It means stuff. Any idiot knows you can’t have plural “stuff.” But this pinhead judge went to town when he saw that I had two pieces. And, since my so-called friends didn’t step up and take the rap, I got the fine.
Paper: The online class made me realize that smoking cannabis is not in line with my moral, ethical and spiritual values. I am here studying at the university to get an education and to get a productive job. I now realize that marijuana is a distraction that could prevent me from attaining my goal. It is probably good that this happened. I will probably look back on this as a turning point in my life.
UG/WH: Here is how weed really affects my values: it costs a lot to stay high. It is cheaper if you smoke garbage, but I like the good shit, and this stuff sets me back $20 a gram. Does this interfere with my other values? Fuck no! It makes me a better person. You don’t see me drunk off my ass, getting into fights like those douche-bag frat guys, do you? When was the last time a stoner got into a knock-down drag-out fight, broke out a bunch of windows, and punched holes in the walls? Never! It doesn’t happen!
Paper: The requirements of this essay include a discussion of what I would do if I were in the same situation again. Suffice to say that I would not get into the same situation again. I would not invite people to my university-owned apartment for these activities. If people want to come to my apartment, I will not permit them to bring alcohol, marijuana, smoking devices and play loud music and grind, even if the grinding were consensual. Thus, my actions would be very different because I wouldn’t let this happen. If my roommate, who was not present at the time the bust, were to have a party, I would leave. I would simply approach the situation differently so I wouldn’t have to deal with the long and short term consequences of these activities.
UG/WH: If I had to do all this again would I do anything different? Yes! I would empty a can of Ozium before I’d open the door to the freaking RA. Just so you assholes know; I put a big sign on the inside of the door telling my friends to look through the peephole to see who is knocking before opening it up. Hey, if it’s the cops or the RA, don’t open the door. It’s simple.
Paper: The most important thing that I’ve learned about this experience is that one doesn’t need to invite a lot of people, bring illegal substances into your apartment, to have fun. And I will use this information in the future. Thank you, Etoque.
UG/WH: Eat me! Fuck off and die!