Editorial: Res Hall drug searches adhere to letter of law

Editorial Board

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While Loyola’s guidelines for searching dorm rooms on the suspicion of illicit drug use may generate much controversy around campus, the policies are a valid and reasonable exercise of the university’s authority.

Loyola is well within its legal rights to search residents’ rooms if illicit drug use is suspected. Each year, the university requires all on-campus students to sign a housing contract that explicitly reserves for Loyola the right to search dorm rooms. Whether or not you agree with the current legal status of various drugs, it is clear that the university and its police adhere to their ethical guidelines and the law when conducting these room searches.

Loyola has a legitimate interest in trying to reduce on-campus drug use by enforcing these policies. Illicit drug use in the dorms endangers the students in possession and implicates other individuals living in the residence hall. When students use drugs on campus, they produce risk for their neighbors and residential assistant, potentially putting them in jeopardy, and create liability for the university. By enforcing its policies on searching rooms for drugs, the university helps mitigate these factors, deter future drug use and protect the health of its student body.

Furthermore, this residential policy appears in an environment that legitimizes its existence. The United States and Louisiana have strict laws against illicit drug use, laws that the university is simply upholding with its policies to deter and reduce drug use on campus. If students are caught using illicit drugs off campus, they will be subject to punishment for this behavior, and it is reasonable that our university enforces similar rules. Loyola is not an isolated universe. It exists in the real world, and the university’s policies should reflect this. By enforcing its anti-drug policies, Loyola is treating students as the adults they are and as the responsible citizens they should be.

Even so, questions concerning Loyola’s drug policies do remain. While residential students consent to these searches by agreeing to the housing contract, Loyola does require freshman and sophomore students to reside on campus. Is it a fair choice for Loyola to force prospective students to either consent to these searches or seek an education elsewhere? In fact, can it even be considered a true choice?

The policies also present concerns about the type of drugs focused upon by the university. While these policies are officially designed to apply to all illicit drug use, there is no doubt that the rule in practice applies almost exclusively to marijuana use, whether intentionally or inadvertently. Do the policies focus upon the drugs that the university should be most concerned about — the most damaging to students’ health — or simply upon the most readily detectable? And by focusing on marijuana, does the policy unintentionally push students to pursue less noticeable drugs with comparable effects, thereby causing increased use of more dangerous drugs?

Loyola’s drug policies inevitably raise numerous questions. The overarching conclusion, however, remains clear. Loyola’s policy is legitimate and legal, and students should act responsibly to adhere to the guidelines. If you possess illicit substances, remember that the university can and will search your room ­— be smart and refrain from using drugs on campus.


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