Written by an American University Student who wishes to remain anonymous.
While the scene unfolded, I sat on the ground with my head against the wall and thought “if we were drinking in there we would have never been caught.”
Waiting for the procedures to follow, my anxiety raged inside of me because this was the biggest mistake I made in a very long time. I thought about all the things I had to overcome to get to college. I thought about my anxiety in high school, the panic attacks I had on a weekly basis that since disappeared since coming to DC. I thought about the relief in my heart when my dad told me he would be able to afford to help pay for this $54,000 a year school. A day didn’t go by where I didn’t think of how grateful I was. I thought about all of the opportunities I had ahead of me to achieve; the internships, the volunteering, the friendships to make. I imagined my mom sending me off to school and telling me one last time to “go change the world”. The motivation I have here, the hours spent in the library and the nights studying, is mainly to make my parents proud. Sure, I’d love to make some genuine contribution to society, but in doing so I want to show my mother and father that they raised me well. And this could have messed it all up. This stupid incident.
Roughly three weeks ago I was caught with marijuana by a Resident Assistant in a resident hall. I now have to attend two one-on-one marijuana education classes with a health educator on campus. I also have to attend a decision-making class. My father will receive a letter in the mail stating that “Your daughter violated American University’s drug policy”. And lastly, I have been placed on disciplinary probation for a semester from when the incident occurred. Disciplinary probation prevents my holding of a leadership position or studying abroad, which I am fortunately not doing until junior year. It also makes it so small infractions, such a noise complaint or being caught playing sports in the hallways of the residents building, can result in removal from campus housing and suspension from the university itself.
I made a mistake. I ingested a drug that is deemed criminal in the eyes of American University. In no ways am I justifying my past actions. However, what causes my frustration is the severe differences this school has between marijuana and alcohol violations.
If an RA found me and my friends drinking in a room, we would have to pour out the alcohol and be allowed to carry on with the rest of our evening, no Public Safety involved. We would have a meeting with Student Conduct and we would have had to attend an Alcohol Education class. No parent letter. No disciplinary notification. I wouldn’t have to worry about being rejected from federal jobs because of a “probation” incident on my conduct record. Internships wouldn’t be blurred by the fact that I got caught smoking my freshman year of college.
The fact of the matter is that penalties for marijuana use at American University are much harsher than alcohol. In fact, I could have been transported by ambulance to Sibley Hospital for alcohol poisoning and received less punishment than being caught with marijuana residue. For a student’s first alcohol transport, they are required to meet with a wellness teacher and pay a hefty alcohol bill. Once again, there is no parental notification or disciplinary probation. No long-term punishments.
While people and institutions across the state will have differing views on underage alcohol and drug use, the punishments for the substances should not differ in such dramatic ways. American University’s current policies have convinced me that this institution sees alcohol as a less severe and dangerous drug than marijuana. This is not a claim I agree with, but it is the reality of the campus policies.
The waiting and apprehension after the entirety of this event made my anxiety rush back. I had several panic attacks during the three-week waiting period for my meeting. I even called my dad to tell him what happened because I felt like I was losing my mind. My dad quickly comforted me and told me how “it’s college. You’re going to make a mistake here and there”. I thought that my dad’s full understanding would quell my anxiety, but it didn’t. I still felt like a delinquent, almost like a criminal. Despite gaining a place on the honor roll with a 4.0 GPA, working everyday after school in high school, and being the Editor-in-Chief of my high school paper, a literature fiend, lover of writing, public communications major, and dreamer to change the world, I was now a screw up, a criminal, on probation. Probation is for the bad guys. I guess I’m one of the bad guys now.
I accept my punishment with dignity and fully accept the poor decision I made. I do not accept the University’s punishments on marijuana compared to alcohol.