Lighting up a new direction

The students, faculty, and staff's complaints have led security officials to find an innovation with drugs on campus.
The students, faculty, and staff's complaints have led security officials to find an innovation with drugs on campus.

Smoking illegal substances, drinking and other activities in the “butt huts” have increased the concerns of Bellevue College students, faculty and staff looking for more control.

“This issue is an ongoing concern, we receive calls from students as well as faculty and parents; it validates where we’re at in the process,” said Maggie Whetsel, Director of Public Safety at BC.

For some students, the drug use on campus is completely unnoticed and for others, it stands as a large annoyance as well as a disruption to their academic career. “It is completely annoying and disrespectful. They [students using substances] are down there all day doing everything from getting high, popping pills, oxycoton, selling, to drinking liquor out of McDonalds cups. It is ridiculous. Students want to go down there to just relax and have a cigarette before their next class and not have to worry about being interrogated by security,” said Corin Osborne, a BC student.

In the student handbook, BC states its Vision, Mission and Core Values for the campus. In this it states, We the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff and administration of Bellevue College, place students at the center of all we do and support and promote the excellence of their efforts. We affirm and embody pluralism; value collaboration and shared decision making; and honor creativity and innovation. We consider it our duty to anticipate changing demands in education and welcome the opportunity to shape its future. We acknowledge our responsibility to society and embrace the belief that widespread access to excellent postsecondary education is the cornerstone of democratic society.

“We want a comfortable safe campus. We want students to come here and put their energy in their studies and not in looking over their shoulders,” said Whetsel.

With these values being expected of BC students and its academic environment, those on campus are asking a couple questions: At what point or what cost do the “Core Values” take precedence classrooms? And what actions are being taken to provide an exceptional learning environment for those eager to participate?

“Teachers don’t deserve to have these kids in their classrooms, especially when there are ones on the waiting list that actually want to learn,” said Royce Aydel, a BC student.

With the rising issues and complaints, Bellevue security officials have been meeting to form a new direction in keeping BC academically centered. Although, it is in the beginning phases, Whetsel and Matthew Groshong, Associate Dean in Evaluations and Graduation, are working together to come up with more successful strategies to keep the BC Policy “4500 Drug-free Environment” enforced. “It is complicated to find ways that would be successful, especially with the way budgets are now, and having low numbers in staff. The students that are doing it know the uniform and are able to recognize when we are coming. Once we get there, there is nothing going on,” said Whetsel.

When students are found using illegal substances on campus, the protocol is to keep them there until Bellevue Police process them. Whetsel explains how they are informed of the Code of Conduct and BC policies as well as the disciplinary actions.

“We do have the Bellevue Police speak to some individuals and it is great that we have such a close relationship with them [Bellevue Police Department] to count on them to be here on campus whenever we have these issues. They are truly a great asset,” said Whetsel.

The college is an educational environment and the drug use on campus has emerged to a disruptive atmosphere that is demanding attention and a change in how security is assessing and prioritizing the conflicts at hand. “It seems, for the people, doing the drugs is more intimidating when a teacher walks by since they will yell at them and make a scene whereas when security approaches they just shrug and stand there for a while then walk away,” said Osborne.

“Students, at this point, are more concerned with not parking in faculty parking then they are of smoking [marijuana] on campus, because there are actual set consistent consequences for that. The school is focusing more on that issue than the real issue affecting education,” said Aydel.

Security has made a point that this issue is being handled and that Groshong and Whetsel are in the process of utilizing all resources to reduce the issue to its fullest. “The majority of students on campus range from 17 years [old] to 25 [years old] and at these ages, young adults are likely to try or experiment with substances. It is predominate for that age group,” said Whetsel.

BC is not the first to see drug use on campus and it won’t be the last, but the security department would like to assure faculty, staff and students that they are in progress to enforce the no-tolerance of these activities on campus.