At the beginning of the academic year we implemented new procedures that were designed to help keep Winston-Salem State University safe for those who study, live and work on the campus. Over the past few weeks, however, we have seen an increase in criminal activity on this campus. While the new procedures have produced some results and can be credited with helping to keep the criminal element off of the campus, we now feel that they were not enough to accomplish the safety and security goals that we have set for ourselves. The recent spate of crimes has involved illegal drugs and guns, a situation that is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
I have instructed the Division of Student Life and Campus Police to work even more closely to increase security and to enforce more stringent policies and procedures. This cooperative effort is designed to support more strongly existing safety and security policies, and to enforce a zero tolerance policy on our campus regarding the possession and use of illegal drugs, including marijuana. We are firmly convinced that the majority of the criminal activity we are now seeing is coming from a demand for drugs among a small subset of our students. To protect the vast majority of our students who are not involved in these illegal activities, we are determined to eliminate the demand.
The University has begun to impose stiffer penalties for the possession and/or use of marijuana or any other illegal drugs by students and employees. The penalties are designed to curtail the activities that are most often associated with the use of illegal drugs. The stiffer penalties are consistent with the authority contained in the University’s Revised Policy on Illegal Drugs, as adopted by the Winston-Salem State University Board of Trustees on December 14, 2007, which states that “WSSU shall take all actions necessary, consistent with state and federal law and applicable University policy, to eliminate illegal drugs from the University community.” The revised policy sets forth only the minimum penalties that may be imposed for various drug-related violations. Given the situation at hand a more aggressive approach is called for, one that imposes the harshest of penalties. For example, the possession and/or use of even one joint, will result in a student losing his or her housing, the loss of University or athletic scholarships, the prohibition from participating in extracurricular activities including the band and sports teams, suspension from the University for a minimum of one semester, and the possibility of criminal charges being sought through the Winston-Salem State University Police Department, the Winston-Salem Police Department and the courts. With regard to employees the minimum penalty shall be suspension from employment.
Additionally, we are taking the following steps:
- We are increasing significantly the visibility of uniformed officers on campus by bringing on additional officers and freeing up existing officers from other duties. There will be more officers walking the campus and patrolling on scooters;
- We will conduct background checks on all students at the time of application for admission;
- We are improving enforcement at the entrances to campus by assigning sworn police officers to those posts as opposed to security officers. Moreover, some entrances to the campus will be closed earlier than the current 10:00 p.m. schedule;
- There will be more frequent and random ID checks of students throughout the campus;
- The University will purchase drug detection dogs and maintain its own canine unit in order to monitor drug activity on the campus, including such activities as they may occur in the residence halls;
- A new system of accountability will be implemented when illegal drugs are found in residence halls rooms and/or suites. The new approach will assume that all occupants of that room or suite are involved with the possession and/or use of illegal substances and all occupants will be subject to the same procedures and sanctions.
In the past, we had attempted to work with students and to shield them from the criminal justice system, recognizing that such involvement at an early age can change a young life forever. At this point, however, the situation is such that the well-being of our more than 6,000 students, as well as our faculty and staff, must take precedent and guide our actions. We cannot and we will not tolerate criminal activity on our campus. Therefore, we are issuing what amounts to a very strong warning. We urge you to take this matter seriously because we certainly are doing that.
If you have any questions regarding this matter please contact me or Trae Cotton the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs or Patricia Norris the Chief of University Police.
Thank you for your support.