Newly elected Associated Student Body Judicial Chair Will Nowell announced his plans on Wednesday to propose a resolution in the fall designed to repeal and replace the two-strike policy.
Nowell said he believes the alcohol and drug penalty should be replaced with one that better reflects the ideals of the university.
“We don’t make examples of people,” Nowell said.
The two-strike policy places minimum sanctions on students who commit alcohol- and drug-related offenses on campus, such as unlawful possession of drugs or underage drinking in dorms.
The policy gives one strike to students for their first offense, placing them on probation for two semesters. If during this probationary period students commit another offense, they are suspended for a semester.
The problem, Nowell said, is the minimum sanctions do not take into account the specifics of each case, and often a lesser offense, like possessing alcohol in a dorm room, is given punishment equal to a much larger offense, like a DUI.
“I think that the two-strike policy was created at a time with a lot of emotional tension involved,” Nowell said. “With the passing of Officer Langley, the school had to do something that they thought would address the problem.”
University Police Officer Robert Langley was killed in October 2006 by a student during a traffic stop. The student, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, dragged Langley 200 yards down Jackson Avenue with his car before fleeing the scene.
The two-strike policy change was one of the central points from Nowell’s campaign for judicial chair earlier this semester.
Nowell said he feels the policy, which was created in 2006, no longer reflects the ideals of “restorative justice” practiced by both the judicial board and the Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct.
Nowell said restorative justice focuses on not only fixing whatever damage or harm a student may have done but also giving appropriate punishments that have the end goal of allowing students to return and complete their education, if possible.
Mississippi State University has similarly strict rules regarding alcohol and drug abuse on and off campus, but sanctions are “not predetermined, accommodating the individual circumstances of a given case,” according to its student policies webpage.
Nowell said his plan begins with getting a resolution onto the ASB Senate floor at least by the fall. His main requirements for the new policy focus on removing the minimum punishments for alcohol- and drug-related offenses.
After the resolution passes through the Senate, he said, a conversation can be started between ASB and the university administration to modify the current policy.
“I would like to give the university a semester or two window where they can form a council, like they did the first time the policy was created, so they can create a new policy they feel comfortable with but at the same time directly satisfies the resolution’s requirements,” Nowell said.
Director of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct Tracy Murry said he already has plans to assemble a committee to discuss the current alcohol and drug policies of the university, separate from what the ASB is proposing.
“What we’re looking at doing is not necessarily going in there with a mindset of changing it, but going to look at it and review it and see if it’s working or not working, if it needs tweaking, and make those proposals or suggestions,” Murry said.
Murry said he supports the student government using its voice to try to help with the process of reviewing and suggesting changes.
He plans to review data on university alcohol and drug offenses through the rest of the semester and into the fall to see what changes would best benefit the students.
“I want to make sure we’re looking at it from a bigger point of view and seeing how is it effective for the community and for the students, both on campus and off campus,” Murry said. “A lot of things have changed in 10 years. I think it’s really time to start having this conversation.”