While it would appear that drug use is a prominent feature of student life, quantitatively, it seems that drug use is actually decreasing at university campuses as well as Brock University specifically. According to Campus Security, there have been approximately 87 instances of controlled drug and substance abuse infractions in 2015, which has decreased considerably from 2014 (126 infractions) and 2013 (100 infractions).
“The drugs and or drug calls that we respond to on campus generally involve marijuana. We have also come across cocaine, ecstasy, prescription drugs, however, these are very few incidents that we are aware of,” said Donna Moody, director of Brock University Campus Security Services.
Randy Haveson is the founder of Party with a Plan, an organization that looks to educate students at the high school and university level about drugs. The organization’s core program is alcohol and drug education and risk reduction. Haveson himself is a former addict, and he has used his personal experiences in order to help shape the program. According to Haveson, seven per cent of addicts begin their drug use in college or university.
“Peer pressure is a huge reason [for high drug usage in the student demographic]. There’s this false sense that drug use is the norm at university,” said Haveson.
This “false sense” is increased exponentially however, when social media is brought into the mix, according to Haveson.
At Brock, the biggest offender of normalizing drugs through the social media sphere is likely the anonymously student-run Snapchat account called “Mother Badger”. The account is run by an anonymous administrator and encourages individuals to submit videos and pictures, which are then “snapped” out to Mother Badger’s thousands of followers.
While the account began as a harmless outlet for Brock-focused content, people dancing, singing, doing funny things, memes and photos, the account quickly devolved into a collection of photos and videos depicting the underbelly of St. Catharines that ranges from illicit drug use, to sexual activity and all other forms of obscene, illegal content. The account, despite being shut down multiple times by Snapchat, perseveringly changed its name and re-opened, and somehow managed to maintain large portions of its followship. The account reached its peak of popularity back in late December and early January. During this time approximately 100 photos and videos depicted individuals snorting cocaine or engaged in other hard drug usage.
Moody however, maintains that since Snapchat is completely anonymous, the people and places shown on the account are always assumed to be affiliated with Brock because of the name of the Snapchat account but this isn’t necessarily accurate.
“It could be anyone or anywhere. However, recent posts have been investigated by both ourselves and Niagara Regional Police due to the content of the site. I don’t believe all of those photos and videos are Brock students or Brock locations and it’s hard to understand why students would do that in leading people to believe it is all drugs at Brock simply by the title they use. We have learned a lot from our investigation with the police,” commented Moody.
Although not all Snapchat videos and photos can be traced to the Brock University community, many photos and videos of both recreational and hard drugs showed the official “Brock University” Snapchat filter, suggesting that this behaviour occurred either on, or very close to, campus.
The use and possession of drugs are banned on the Brock campus and is a criminal offense depending on the drug and which act it falls into. The Student Code of Conduct policy is implicated in instances of drug use at Brock, as well as the Residence Guiding Principles. These policies can impart penalties and fines for students who are caught. The penalties can vary, depending on the circumstances and in the most extreme cases, can lead to expulsion and criminal charges being laid.
Moody describes the general drug community and usage as “recreational” and cites the decline in controlled drugs and substance abuse on campus in 2015. Of course, these statistics only account for calls made to Campus Security Services which typically only accounts for incidences occurring on campus. Excluded in these statistics are the occurrences of drug use off campus as well as the number of incidences which go unreported. Another important consideration is the geographic location of the Brock community itself. Situated as a relative border town, Brock and the surrounding Niagara region offer an ideal tactical passageway for trafficking drugs between Canada and the United States.
“We have small pockets outside of our campus where the drug trafficking trade no doubt is carried out. When you deal with trafficking and the drug culture one must always suspect some level of violence can be involved,” said Moody.
Beyond hard drugs, like cocaine or heroin, recreational drug use and marijuana is commonly associated with the stereotypical university experience, and according to several anonymous Brock university students, marijuana is easily accessible for the average student.
“Finding access to drugs was not at all difficult”, said one upper-year student. Being on residence is the perfect place to find someone with access to drugs. You’re in contact with so many people and someone will also know someone”.
Another student detailed his experience of briefly dealing marijuana to about 20 clients, he was later caught by Brock’s Campus Security.
“They confiscated everything. What happened after was that I had to lay out my case to a council of students who decided my fate and they were sympathetic to my situation,” the student said.
Despite both Brock’s Department of Residence and Campus Security’s strict policies against drug use, others believe that recreational marijuana usage is neither harmful nor detrimental to one’s personal health and livelihood.
“For [many] students, it’s their first time away from home and they have a lot of freedom to do what they want,” said one student, to which another added, “It’s a part of growing up”.
Assistant Campus News Editor