Dorms: Contraband Crazy?

Turn your Castleton State College handbooks to Page 61. You are now reading the Residence Life Policies of CSC. Students are expected to follow the rules on these next four pages, ranging from quiet hours and guests policies, to the always troublesome possession of “contraband” items.

Contraband items are literally objects that are smuggled, or in other terms, against the laws of the college to have in dorms. There is no doubt that in every resident hall at Castleton, there is at least one room on each floor that has contraband in it. A lot of times it’s because students are unaware of the policies, or just don’t care. The policies set in place by the college are deliberate and justified, officials say.

Here for a reason

“I think that the guidelines are simple enough to be easily followed,” said Christie Wilkerson, area coordinator of Babcock Hall.

Dennis Proulx, director of Residence Life, also believes the policies are rational. According to Proulx, most students respect the rules, and even those who do break them usually cooperate very well with Public Safety, CA’s, and AC’s, to resolve the problem.

Wilkerson and Proulx, both agree that possession of contraband doesn’t seem to be a huge problem at CSC.

“I don’t think people are violating our policies at such a level that I’m concerned with,” Proulx said.

He said he has a lot of trust in the students and their ability to do the right thing. He does not deny, however, that students are in possession of contraband, saying candles, double refrigerators (two in one room), toaster ovens and drug paraphernalia are the most commonly found. Most items are banned to protect the community from possible fires, while others, like drug paraphernalia, are against the law to begin with.

Pets that are not fish are not allowed as well, though one has popped up more often than others.

“Cats. We don’t encourage cats,” said Wilkerson, who found a few last semester, which is much better than the alligator that she ran into at a former school she worked at.

There are no real punishments for having contraband at CSC, unless it has to do with drugs, then the matter is handed over to the police. For other items, students are simply asked to take them off campus. Proulx does not think confiscating items such as lamps and candles are necessary.

“I’m not in the business of taking and destroying people’s property. I’m in the business of protecting our environment.”

Mandatory inspections during breaks sometimes lead to items being found, though staff does not search drawers or look under beds. Only a visual scan of the room is enough to check the room and ensure privacy.

Castleton in Comparison

All schools have policies for contraband. Lyndon State College and Johnson State College, two other VSC schools, have similar residence policies.

Erin Miner, the Residence Life director at LSC, believes that Lyndon students are also cooperative when it comes to getting caught for having contraband.

Miner knows they “….understand that they were breaking policy by having the item in their possession. We try hard to inform students of items that are not allowed in the residence halls at several stages throughout their time at Lyndon from acceptance through their senior year.”

Extension cords, halogen lamps and candles are also the biggest problem at LSC, she said. But unlike CSC, Lyndon will confiscate contraband items and keep them in the RA’s office until the end of the semester. For illegal items such as drug paraphernalia, they too contact authorities.

Johnson on the other hand, has another way of handling these objects. Every person who gets caught with contraband gets a written warning, but punishments depend on what is found. If a candle or incense is found burning, the student receives a fire/safety violation, and has to serve four education service hours.

If a bong or other form of instrument used for smoking marijuana is found and obviously used, “the students receive an illegal substance paraphernalia sanction which is eight educational service hours, a required meeting with JSC’s coordinator of alcohol and drug services, and a letter sent to their parent or legal guardian,” said Michele Whitmore, Residence Life director of Johnson.

“Students are not “psyched” about these policies, but they abide by them.” Whitmore said.

The Other Side

Students will always break the contraband rules. “Either the risk of having it outweighs the risk of being caught, or they don’t believe we’re going to enforce the policy,” Proulx said.

Some students think the rules are contradicting.

“I think some are ridiculous, like extension cords. They are less of a fire hazard then power strips and yet power strips are allowed,” sophomore, Heather Lavallee said.

Mostly students understand why the rules are set in place and agree with the policies.

“I think they are a good idea. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are responsible and careful, but there’s plenty more that could forget. If there are some students who can’t even keep an eye on popcorn and trigger a fire alarm–I guarantee they might not be efficient with something you plug in or light with fire,” said senior Michelle Rice.

It is easy for students to list off illegal items that they or their friends have in the dorms. “Extension cords, microwaves, alcohol and alcohol memorabilia, pets, extra refrigerators, and hot pots…” one students rattled off the list with ease.”Wow I know a lot of people with illegal stuff.”

Students obviously hide the items in order to avoid being caught by putting microwaves under beds, taking home un-allowed pets over breaks, or tucking them in the closet when people come in.

Crystal Johnson, a commuter from Poultney, used to live on campus in the fall of 2003, and was the CA of Wheeler 101. She recalls a story about her experience with a cuddly contraband item.

“What happened was one of my suitemates found a stray kitten wandering around campus. We named it Juliet,” Johnson said. “One day our Res. Life director came by and said he had seen the cat in one of our windows, and he made us get rid of it. We were all kind of bummed.”

Johnson and her suitemates had the cat for a month before anyone noticed. It is far too easy for students to hide everything because they know they will not be searched.

“It has not been that difficult, especially since no one has come in here,” said a sophomore, who has a large tank with a turtle in his room.

But according to the Residence Life staff, contraband isn’t really that big of a problem.

“It’s there, we deal with it, it’s gone,” Wilkerson said.

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