Photo by Kaylyn Jones
Drug use threatens university students nationwide, and Southern Miss students are no exception. The University Police Department’s 2018-19 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report reveals that drug use is one of the university’s primary safety concerns.
The report lists two kinds of drug incidents: drug law violations referred for disciplinary action and drug law arrests. According to the 2018-19 report, which provided statistics from 2015 through 2017, there were 81 on-campus drug law violations as well as 37 drug law arrests on the Hattiesburg campus alone.
“An arrest can occur if a student, faculty, staff or visitor is found in violation of state and local laws relating to the unlawful possession, sale, use, growing, manufacturing and making of narcotic drugs,” University Police Department Chief Rusty Keyes said. “The relevant substances include opium or cocaine and their derivatives, marijuana, synthetic narcotics and dangerous non-narcotic drugs.”
Those who violate drug laws may also require disciplinary action in accordance with the Code of Student Contact, according to Keyes.
“I have been a law enforcement officer for 30 years with 13 of those years at Southern Miss,” Chief Keyes said. “I’ve seen drug trends change in several ways over those years on the local and national level, and drug trends will continue to change in the future.”
Director of student counseling services and adjunct faculty member for the school of social work Deena Crawford said she sees the effects of drugs on college students.
“What I do know is that our college students, like the rest of the college-aged population, use drugs to rebel, explore and self-medicate,” Crawford said. “There are much better ways to do that without wrecking your body or having serious consequences.”
Some people often associate college drug use with Greek life. Senior healthcare marketing major and current president of Sigma Phi Epsilon Tyler Barnett shared his fraternity’s aim to create a substance-free environment.
“In terms of drugs, we have a zero-tolerance policy on drugs,” Barnett said. “So any member found with any type of illegal drug in the house will be put on suspension and then sent to a Standards Board hearing.”
Barnett said he is familiar with the pressures college students face as a student involved with many facets of the university.
“I think, honestly, it’s stressors and obligations, but it’s also just ease of access,” Barnett said of the reasons for collegiate drug abuse. “It becomes so easy for them to get it, and then it’s like, ‘Why wouldn’t I?’”
Southern Miss provides resources for students, including eight licensed mental health professionals on staff at Student Counseling Services. Crawford said she and her department are here to help those in need.
“College students are most influenced by their peers, so if you are concerned about a friend’s use, tell them and make a plan to get them some help, and we’d be glad to help,” Crawford said.
Student Counseling Services is located in Bond Hall, and they can be reached at 601-266-4829 during business hours, which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.