University revises two-strike alcohol and drug policy

Posted on Sep 6 2018 - 5:50am by Taylor Vance

Ole Miss is rescinding its two-strike drug and alcohol policy and instead will now judge drug and alcohol offenses on a case-by-case basis.

Since 2006, the university’s two-strike policy has mandated minimum sanctions for alcohol and drug offenses on campus or in Lafayette County. Student or student organizations would receive a first strike for any level of alcohol or drug offense. The policy then required that the university suspend a student or student organization for a second alcohol or drug offense if it occurred during the probation period following the student’s first strike.

The university’s decision to change its policy comes as the William Magee Center for Wellness Education is scheduled to open this semester and as conversations about how to address the opioid epidemic have taken prominence around the nation.

Dean of Students Melinda Sutton Noss explained that the decision to change the policy came from a committee made up of students and faculty members that was formed last year to take a look at the effectiveness of the two-strike policy.

“We’ve started implementing it now for a few months,” Sutton Noss said. “We saw the change coming toward the end of the spring, and so the students we began working with (then) … we took this philosophical approach with them.”

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brandi Hephner LaBanc said the university wants to move toward a more helpful and educational role and let students know about resources for rehabilitation that are available to them.

“College students, in general, across the nation struggle with alcohol and other drugs,” Hephner LaBanc said. “We wanted to really look at how we were addressing those issues. We want to talk about it more. We wanted to offer more resources and quicker intervention because what we want to do is help students, early on.”

Tracy Murry, director of the Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct, said the update stemmed from a review of campus trends and practices across the nation.

“This update aims to address individual behavior by the best means available to the institution, which include conversations with the student, assessment and creative sanctioning that will help a student understand and benefit from the educational process,” Murry said.

In a release Wednesday morning, the university announced some of the factors that would determine the outcome of drug and alcohol cases. These include the likelihood that drug and alcohol education will minimize repeat violations by a student and the scope of the damage a student’s infraction caused.

University Judicial Chair Alex Crouch agreed with the decision and said he was proud of the university for trying to educate students and resolve conflicts.

“This policy change empowers the University Judicial Council, as we are now better able to appropriately sanction students found responsible for violating policy in a way that restores our community, offers students opportunities to learn from their experiences and, ultimately, keeps our community and its members safe from harm,” Crouch said.

Under the two-strike policy, students could receive a strike if found guilty of a “violation, through the University’s conduct process, of a University policy concerning or involving the use of alcohol or other drugs.”

The strike policy included university punishments for a number of off-campus offenses as well.

“For students, such offenses include but are not limited to any drug-related crime, public intoxication, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol occurring within Lafayette County,” according to the policy’s text.