Categorized | Viewpoints

College search policy merits revisiting

On the first day of school this year, College of Wooster Security decided to pay my group house a visit under the claim they smelled marijuana a block away. Ignoring the fact that this would be impossible since we just came from dinner thirty minutes before, my housemates and I were confused that the security officer decided to come straight to our house without investigating the other nearby student group, or even the Wooster community houses. The security officer said that since he smelled marijuana, that he would need to search the rooms in the house. He called a representative from either Res Life or the Dean’s Office to be present during the search. The representative was there to help me by answering any questions I may have.

Unfortunately, the representative, as well as the different security officers, was unable to answer many of my questions or point out their procedures in the Scot’s Key when asked.

The officer continued by saying he would first conduct a “plain view search.” According to the security officer, they are supposed to look around the room without altering the appearance, and if they see anything that the College deems to be illegal or “out of the ordinary,” they would then request to search the whole room with the authority to move things around. My roommate and I gave consent to the “plain view search,” knowing we had nothing illegal in plain view.

We were surprised, however, when the officer claimed he found “shake” on my roommate’s desk and he would proceed to search our whole room. I asked him, “What is shake?” He then replied, “Shake is a brownish, greenish substance that resembles marijuana.”

The amount of “shake” on the desk was miniscule, seemingly less than 0.001 grams, proving that the security officer was grasping at straws to confiscate weed from college students. The substance found was also not shake, but tobacco, which is legal to possess in the state of Ohio. The security officer asked us for permission to search the entirety of our room because of the “shake,” and we said “no.” He then said he was going to call Dean Buxton, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of first year students, to get her permission to search our room.

I was hoping that once he described to her the current situation, she would also decline to allow the officer to search our room. I could not have been more wrong.

Instead of calling the dean in front of us, the officer stepped outside the house. As residents of the house, we were unable to leave while they were conducting their investigation. Due to this rule, if a student denied permission to search a room, a security officer can theoretically call a dean with false evidence solely to search the room. The dean who is being called is not required to drive out to the student’s room to see what the security officer is describing.

Even though this process seems well-thought out and planned, it is actually no more than a sentence in The College of Wooster’s Handbook of Selected College Policies. On page 28, the handbook reads, “In accordance with the U.S. Constitution and the case law interpreting it, the College has the right to conduct searches of College-owned or College-controlled property (e.g., residence hall rooms, offices, desks, lockers, toolboxes, vehicles, computers, e-mail files, etc.).”

Nowhere does it say security officers must call a representative of the College to answer the student’s questions, conduct a “plain view search,” call a dean if the student says no to the search or search through a student’s own personal belongings separate from the College’s. Yet at the time of my incident with security, they did all of the previously listed actions.

The overall investigation took about four hours. It definitely makes you wonder what would happen if security applied the same dedication to solving major crimes as they do when they are in search of recreational drugs. Security should continue performing their job, which is to protect students and members of the College community.

Having a clear, concise procedure outlining what may and may not occur will not only protect students, but also the security officers themselves, as they are guaranteed to have the backing of the College without worrying if they are following the rules. Allowing an unclear policy regarding searches on campus allows confusion to persist and also places the College in jeopardy of committing various governmental violations.

Overall, a defined procedure for searches regarding students will definitely help The College of Wooster.

Robert Dinkins, Jr., a Viewpoints Editor for the Voice, can be reached for comment at RDinkins19@wooster.

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3 Responses to “College search policy merits revisiting”

  1. Liza Kay says:

    Something smells funny here. Is security really going to spend the year chasing down the smell of weed? One wonders if they were trying to slow down what they believe is the source.

  2. Dan says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here. Your comment “knowing we had nothing illegal in plain view”, would indicate that you have something illegal hidden within your room.
    I’m also going to assume, that this is not your first infraction with marijuana on this campus. Being it is the first day of school, and you already lost a large amount of weed, I’m going to once again assume that you were extremely angry about this. Hence this post trying to divert your anger and pass the blame onto somebody simply trying to do their job.
    What your readers want to know is, how much weed did they confiscate? How many drug paraphernalia items did they confiscate? And finally, did you learn your lesson? Once again, I bet I know the answer to the last.

  3. Justin says:

    Sounds like someone got their weed taken away and they are crying about it. Boo hoo, if you don’t have drugs in the house to begin with you have nothing to worry about. What a waste of space on the voice. Security is doing their job. Good job Security!

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