DRUG AND ALCOHOL VIOLATIONS
Alcohol consumption is a common aspect of campus social life, even where students have not reached the legal drinking age. Most colleges have rules against underage drinking, but they don’t enforce them with rigor. This can create a situation in which you may be found responsible at any time for drinking, even when your fellow students almost universally engage in the same behavior without any consequences, if the college or university decides to enforce the rules.
Some schools forbid hard liquor, considering it to present a higher risk of severe intoxication or alcohol poisoning. Other policies bar beer kegs or “spiked” punch bowls because of the risk of easy access to underage students. Some schools regulate alcohol use by requiring registration of events where alcohol will be served. Or schools require event coordinators to follow rules on the distribution of alcohol. Alcohol is commonly forbidden in dorms or other school-managed properties.
Students of legal age can also run afoul of campus alcohol policies, for example, by keeping alcohol in their dorms. Underage students may crash an upperclass student’s party and consume alcohol, making the host responsible – even if the host student was not present. Students may inadvertently violate the alcohol policy by having prohibited “paraphernalia,” such as a beer funnel.
Activities considered to be normal a generation ago have now become the focus of campus regulation. In consequence, they are now subject to the campus “judiciary.” A college may also begin proceedings as knock-on charges following an off-campus incident, such as a traffic stop for driving under the influence – without waiting to see if the student is even convicted of a DUI.
Because drinking is so widespread on campus, first violations usually do not result in harsh sanctions. But repeated violations or more serious incidents, such as over consumption that results in death or hospitalization, can have grave consequences. Alcohol violations can also be included as a knock-on offense to a sexual assault charge, if drinking was involved.
Students can lose benefits such as access to campus housing or scholarships. You may also be suspended or expelled.
Drug violations can also have a major impact on a student’s education. Even as many states move toward the legalization of marijuana, most colleges continue to prohibit its use or possession on campus. And not all states tolerate marijuana use or possession. Students who use or sell it can find themselves criminally charged with drug possession or trafficking.
Students who use alcohol or drugs at a university may be caught off-guard by the severe penalties that can result. A qualified attorney can defend you and your education during a disciplinary hearing for drug or alcohol possession.
Most people think of Greek fraternities when they think of hazing. But hazing also takes place on sports teams and within other campus organizations. Hazing frequently becomes entrenched, even beloved among older members who fondly reminisce about it. But consent to hazing does not render it any less a violation of campus anti-hazing policies. Most states have also introduced anti-hazing statutes.
Although common rituals in any organization can provide memorable bonding experiences, hazing can be extremely harmful to students. The required activities are typically humiliating, exhausting, or emotionally taxing. Some examples may also qualify as physical or sexual abuse, subjecting perpetrators to Title IX charges or other knock-on infractions.
Students accused of hazing are frequently the only parties without the backing of a large institution. If a hazing episode leads to a serious injury or, worse, death, campus administrators as well as national organizations such as fraternities typically scramble to distance themselves from the incident. A mutual blame game usually ensues.
When negative publicity swirls around a campus hazing incident, universities may try to mete out especially harsh punishment to the students and organizations involved – leaving them with no one to turn to, even as the students cope with the loss of a friend or struggle with trauma over what they have witnessed.
Those accused of hazing should contact an attorney as quickly as possible. Disciplinary actions can result in expulsion or criminal charges. A qualified attorney can assess whether you violated college rules or state law, and minimize the impact on your education.
Social media and other digital methods of communication allow friends to stay connected as never before. Unfortunately, they have also led to a particularly virulent new form of harassment and bullying.
Colleges and universities have reacted by creating extensive Internet use policies. Since most students get access to the Internet through their campus accounts and use campus e-mail, these policies can apply to students both on and off campus, when school is in session and out of session.
Cyberbullying can come in many forms, including spreading rumors; sending a person hurtful or threatening messages; creating a derogatory website or a demeaning, fake profile about a person; or posting private, personal information about a person online.
If you are subject to cyberbullying, remember to document abusive communications. Use screenshots to create a record of offending texts, posts, or other content to present to school administrators. Such evidence can also provide a basis for a lawsuit charging invasion of privacy, defamation, libel, slander, or other personal harm.
At state institutions, however, public pronouncements—whether over the Internet or otherwise—are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Cyberbullying rules are also subject to abuse. Students can file a complaint against you even when content you have posted is harmless–simply because they find it subjectively unpalatable or because it expresses opinions with which they disagree.
An experienced lawyer can help identify the issues raised in a cyberbullying charge and how best to defend against them.