Busted: Drugs on campus

The UTSA faculty and police are determined to keep the campus safe for students by treating drug and alcohol offenses as serious crimes. Since drug and alcohol related crimes violate both UTSA codes of student conduct, as well as federal and state laws, there are various penalties of varying severity.

Students who live on campus are made aware of how the possession of drugs, paraphernalia and alcohol is approached during student orientation. “It’s really pounded home how serious this is,” says Associate Dean of Students John Kaulfus.

Also acting as interim housing director, Kaulfus explains that there are mandatory inspections every semester. Most violations consist of things like overloaded power sockets or similar safety concerns, but RA’s do occasionally find drugs or alcohol. “It’s vary rare,” Kaulfus says, “but it does happen. Out of 1,680 students in Laurel and Chapparal, he says he is aware of of three this year.

Resident advisers (RAs) are trained in how to respond if drugs or drug paraphernalia is found or reported to them. The situation is investigated and then there is a hearing with Student Judicial Affairs. “If found responsible for illegal drugs,” says Kaulfus, “they lose their housing.” Alcohol is treated the same as drugs, except in University Oaks, where students, provided that they are 21 years of age or older, are allowed to keep alcohol.

The police are notified in these cases and will come to enforce the applicable laws. Captain Douglas Sonego, an officer with the UTSA police department, explains that when drug paraphernalia is found, the student is given a citation. If drugs themselves are found, the student is arrested. The same holds true for persons below 21 possessing alcohol. If over 21 and in a dorm that does not allow alcohol, the police are not involved, but the student is still subject to the penalties enforced by the housing association.

It is important for students to understand that the campus police department is a dedicated branch of the greater San Antonio police; therefore, its jurisdiction is not limited to just the UTSA campus. “We can do whatever we need to do, wherever we need to do it,” says Sonejo. Campus police can follow you off campus, investigate off campus and arrest you off campus. There is also no campus jail. “We take students to the same jail as everyone else in San Antonio,” says Sonejo.

Texas state law mandates a minimum fine of $10,000 and imprisonment of no less than 180 days for illegal drugs other than marijuana, which comes with a minimum $2,000 fine with possible jail time.

In addition to that, students are accountable to UTSA’s student code of conduct. Penalties under the code of conduct include “suspension for a period of time or suspension of rights and privileges, or both.” Assistant Dean of Students Anne Jimenez explains that other possible sanctions include completion of a drug/alcohol education class and participation in a drug/alcohol prevention program, such as E.P.I.C Journey Sanctioning, a holistic approach to behavior modification and personal development.