Policy unchanged, resources for student success strengthened
LIBERAL, Kan. — Like colleges and universities nationwide, Seward County Community College students arrive on campus with more prior exposure to drug and alcohol use than ever before. The college’s drug and alcohol policy has not changed — but starting in fall 2022, its response plan has.
“We are a zero-tolerance campus for drug and alcohol use and we always will be,” said Vice President of Student Services Celeste Donovan.
That said, it was time to update the college’s response to violations. Changing laws that legalize marijuana in neighboring states have raised the stakes in terms of what students see as normal behavior.
“It might be legal in the state they’re coming from, but here, we hold students accountable,” said SCCC Brad Bennett. “At the same time, community colleges are a place for second chances. We owe it to our students to help them develop the ability to go on to live healthy, productive lives.” With its core values of trust, valuing others, and student success in mind, SCCC took a fresh look at a more effective response to policy violations.
“Our previous process didn’t accomplish the goal of reducing student drug use or provide resources for them to course-correct,” said SCCC President Brad Bennett. “As an educational institution, it’s really part of our mission to help students learn and navigate these issues instead of just kicking them out.”
Donovan said a shift from punishment to restorative action was key.
“We were missing an educational component, and over the summer we did a lot of research to fill in that gap,” she said. “We now have a response plan that redefines disciplinary actions, which include completion of an educational program and community service rather than simply issuing a fine.” The education program offers substance-specific tracks that can speak to an individual student’s situation, she said.
In addition, any student who violates the college’s alcohol and drug policy will be subject to drug testing and placement on probationary status. In cases where conditions are not completed, or repeat offenses occur, students may be expelled from the college and/or dismissed from student housing.
Beyond the student and housing handbook, the college also looked at its own function.
“We’ve hired additional staff for student housing and safety, and our security department,” said Bennett. A drug and alcohol response team comprised of members from various departments across campus will continue to meet regularly through the year to adjust and continually improve the SCCC response.
“We’re also consulting local experts,” said Donovan. “We’ve reached out to the Liberal Police Department to get clear guidance about when they need to be involved, and what we can handle before that point. We’re also drawing on the knowledge of local agencies and groups that provide counseling services.”
One visible addition to campus operations will be routine visits from the K-9 unit, which utilizes drug-sniffing dogs. All student-athletes undergo regular drug tests, and students who have violated the policy or who appear to be under the influence are also subject to testing. In the end, said Bennett, the goal is to get more students across the finish line of graduation, healthy, whole, and ready to embark on the next stage of adult life.
“We have a duty of care to our students,” he said. “This is a national problem, and we’re doing our part to help.”