Sniffing out student’s contraband

By Sarah Carlson-McNally
Staff Writer

It’s late in the first semester as the sound of fire alarms roar throughout Quad Commons proceeding to wake me from a nap. I join students as they saunter out into the hallway and exit the building. Two officers head inside towards the second floor along with me and two other RA’s, where we begin checking rooms. They shine their flashlights up towards smoke detectors, across the student’s desks, and along the floor in every nook and cranny.

“We’re looking for any sort of fire safety hazard..toasters, hot plates, bongs,” explained Officer Jamie Benson as she shone her flashlight along a countertop in a common room.

“We got a toaster!” she shouts to another officer down the hall. While officers search rooms, students wait outside anxiously to be let inside. Some are more anxious about what an officer might find in their room than an actual fire.

Public Safety Officers take seconds to search students’ rooms. Whether they search rooms after a fire alarm sounds, or an officer is called to a student’s room, apartment, or house, they are required to search for anything unsafe or illegal on campus.

As Vermont nears the official legalization of recreational cannabis, students are beginning to wonder what the school is going to do about its smoking policies. As of right now, Public Safety follows the usual protocol for finding contraband.

“I don’t think the policy around marijuana will change so long as the federal government doesn’t change,” said Jeff Fontane, investigator and liaison for public safety.

Photo BY Sixiang Chen
Doug Babcock, director of Public Safety, displays the inside of a closet full of personal items that students have lost on Thursday, Feb. 22. Illegal substances are destroyed on site at the fire house.

“As far as glassware goes, marijuana is illegal; residue from marijuana is illegal, it’s not July yet. It has to get destroyed,” said Douglas Babcock, director of Public Safety. “We’re not sworn officers in the state of Vermont, we can’t hold onto the marijuana any more than you can.” When drugs or alcohol are found separate from glassware, students will then be expected to flush substances down the toilet with an officer present. “We do not want the perception that we take alcohol or drugs, and then use it on our own,” Babcock specified.

Officers are required to throw away and destroy any form of contraband, not just glassware. Candles and toasters will also be thrown away. “In general we find a dumpster away from the location and dispose of materials such as candles,” Babcock said. Students often feel emotionally attached to their possessions, and smashing them can sometimes feel harsh.

“There have been occasions where students witnessed the destruction of their property,” Babcock said as he expanded on student’s emotional connections to their belongings. “ But we try not to make that a practice.”

As of now, the college will continue to destroy fire safety hazards and glassware used for marijuana. The process is the same no matter who or what the situation is according to Babcock.