State University College at Oneonta students said Monday that they do not feel drugs and alcohol are serious problems at the college, despite a report that the university is No. 1 in the nation for on-campus drug and alcohol-related arrests.
Almost all students interviewed on campus Monday were aware of the online report, which is the result of a “Drugs on Campus” project conducted by Rehabs.com, a website that seeks to help addicts find the best treatment program. Online magazine Business Insider picked up the report on Friday, further investigating the study and talking to the project organizer.
SUNY Oneonta students said the news was spread “all over campus” via Facebook and Twitter over the weekend. Some students said it had been mentioned in classes. Although almost all said they knew about the report, many seemed hesitant to believe the ranking.
Sophie McCarthy, a cheerleader at SUNY Oneonta, said she heard about the report from a friend, who had seen it on Twitter. McCarthy said she found the ranking “shocking” and “strange.”
“It’s hard to believe,” McCarthy said. “I’ve never seen anyone arrested on campus.”
Two male SUNY Oneonta students who wished to remain anonymous said they had heard about the report through Facebook.
“It’s probably true … I live off campus now, but when I lived on campus I saw a few different people get arrested,” one of the students said.
Drugs on Campus project leader Jon Millward told Business Insider on Friday that the data used to create the study’s map was from the Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education, which tracks campus crime reports.
According to the Drugs on Campus website, the Office of Postsecondary Education maintains a Campus Safety and Security Statistics database. Crime statistics are submitted annually, with the most recent data from 2011, according to the website. Based on the database’s numbers, SUNY Oneonta was ranked No. 1, with 13.61 arrests per 1,000 students.
Millward told Business Insider that on-campus drug and alcohol arrests are defined by the OPE as any drug or alcohol-related arrest, citation or summons that takes place in any building or on any property owned or controlled by an institution within the same geographic area, including dormitories.
According to Millward, data was downloaded from the OPE’s database for the 7,000 colleges in the nation, then narrowed down to only those colleges with more than 5,000 enrolled students. This brought the number down to 1,000 colleges, the website said.
Graduate student Yasmin Moreno said she was aware of the report, but said she was interested in the variables that could have affected the data.
“It’s a possibility that police are targeting students more here than other places,” Moreno said, “or it’s possible that it’s because our police are more vigilant in making arrests.”
A sophomore male who wished to remain anonymous said he knows there are drugs on campus, but has only seen one or two arrests made.
Although several students said they were aware of the college’s reputation as a party school, they did not feel that the problem was any worse than at other colleges, where their friends attend.
Two freshman women said they heard all of the college’s drug-related nicknames long before they arrived on campus in the fall.
“You hear it called ‘STONEONTA’ online, but it seems like it used to be a bigger problem than it is now,” one of the freshman said. “I feel like it’s gotten better since then.”
Ariel Rosero, a senior at SUNY Oneonta, said the report doesn’t look very good for the college.
“I know it’s a problem here,” Rosero said, “but it’s hard to believe that we have the most arrests in the nation.”
But Rosero, like Moreno and other students who were interviewed, wondered if the large number of arrests could actually be indicative of a positive trend.
“A lot of people are saying though that it’s because of our campus’ strict policies. Maybe they are quicker to report incidences, rather than sweep it under the rug.”
University police deferred all questions on Monday to Hall Legg, SUNY Oneonta’s director of communications, who said the college’s position on illegal drugs is clear: they have no place at SUNY Oneonta.
“The information Rehabs.com shared demonstrates our commitment to that position, our effectiveness in policing, and the decisiveness of our response when we find illegal drugs here,” Legg said.
Legg said SUNY’s four-year schools are unique in that they have their own on-campus police departments which, he said, gives them more “robust law enforcement resources.” He said university police are devoted to ensuring the safety and security of all students. As a result, he said, the small amount of students who bring illegal drugs to campus are more likely to be arrested.
Legg said drug-related cases at SUNY Oneonta decreased from 171 in 2010 to 131 in 2012, a 23 percent drop in 2 years, he said. Legg attributed this to law enforcement efforts and educational programming.
Legg also cited the differences in drug laws across the nation.
“As laws criminalizing drugs vary widely from state to state, so too does what constitutes grounds for an arrest,” Legg said.
SUNY Oneonta’s Alcohol and Other Drug Committee, a joint collaboration of students, staff and faculty to decrease high-risk alcohol and other drug use by SUNY Oneonta students, aims to educate the campus about current drug and alcohol-related issues and correct misconceptions, according to the college’s website. The committee organizes and sponsors Alcohol Awareness Week and Safe Spring Break Campaigns.
A committee organizer said Monday that he was aware of the report, but deferred questions to Legg.
The Daily Star reported in December 2010 that SUNY Oneonta was ranked sixth among the “50 Druggiest Colleges” in the United States by the online magazine, The Daily Beast. While the college inexplicably declined to comment, several community members, including Mayor Dick Miller, disagreed with the findings.
A week later, The Daily Star reported that the methodology used in the study was questionable. The first criterion was entirely subjective because it was based on how much students think other students drink. The second criterion was based on statewide statistics, which could be skewed by areas of heavy drug use that are not reflective of Oneonta. The third criterion looked at on-campus drug arrests.
The study from Rehabs.com was based solely on drug arrests made on campus.
An anonymous student waiting for a bus outside the Milne Library on Monday said she was unsure how she felt about the report.
“I mean, I guess it’s accurate … it just seems kind of unbelievable for our college. We’re a good school. Everyone here seems really smart and like they’ve got it together, not like we’re a bunch of druggies.”The top ten The ten U.S. colleges with the most drug arrests per 1,000 students, according to a Rehabs.com study of arrest reports, are: 1. SUNY Oneonta 2. The University of Colorado - Boulder 3. SUNY Oswego 4. Western Illinois University 5. The University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh 6. Frostburg (Md.) State University 7. Coastal Carolina University 8. The University of Oregon 9. West Virginia University 10. The University of Louisiana at Monroe