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From 2018 through 2020, when LSU students were caught illegally drinking alcohol or taking drugs, the university involved the police 100% of the time. It makes LSU an outlier among Louisiana colleges and universities, where discipline is also handled internally.
Federal law requires universities to report any incident involving the illegal use of alcohol or drugs. The stipulation is part of the Clery Act, which calls for any school receiving federal aid to catalog and disclose occurrences of crime on and near campus.
A Louisiana Illuminator review of Clery Act data showed that while other Louisiana schools often handled alcohol and minor drug issues through an administrative discipline process, LSU exclusively turned to law enforcement.
According to the university’s annual security statistics, LSU reported 301 arrests for alcohol violations and 263 arrests for drug violations from 2018 to 2020. No cases of in-house disciplinary action for drug or alcohol violations was reported during that same time frame.
The LSU Police Department will always be involved anytime someone is found breaking the law,, campus spokesperson Ernie Ballard said. “We feel that higher arrest numbers reflect less tolerance for the kind of conduct that often translates to higher risk for young adults,” Ballard said.
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One of those cases involved a hazing incident that led to a freshman’s death in November 2020. It led to the arrest of Terry Pat Reynolds III, a 21-year-old student from Shreveport, for the hazing of that student, who police did not identify, and others.
Reynolds’ case is still under review, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said.
Reynolds’ arrest came a little over a year after the hazing death of LSU fraternity pledge Max Gruver. Matthew Naquin, 21, was convicted of negligent homicide in that case, which led to new criminal hazing laws in Louisiana and in Gruver’s home state of Georgia.
Of the 11 largest Louisiana universities’ annual crime data that the Louisiana Illuminator reviewed, LSU was the only school to report zero cases of in-house disciplinary action for alcohol and drug violations from 2018 to 2020.
In addition to LSU, Louisiana Illuminator reviewed Clery Act data from 2018-2020 for the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, University of Louisiana-Monroe, McNeese State, Southeastern Louisiana, Southern, Louisiana Tech, Grambling State, Tulane, Northwestern State, the University of New Orleans and LSU-Shreveport.
Louisiana Tech recorded 157 arrests and 78 cases of in-house disciplinary action for liquor violations over the three-year period. Police will make an arrest if a violation is a criminal offense, Tonya Oaks Smith, the university’s spokesperson, said.
“For instance, if an 18-year-old is caught with alcohol in their dorm, that becomes a disciplinary referral because of our state’s laws,” Smith said.
The Clery Act reports don’t necessarily reflect every instance of underage drinking on a college campus. Underage drinking in a dorm room isn’t against the law in Louisiana because dorms are considered private dwellings, Ballard with LSU said. A student younger than 21 caught drinking anywhere else on campus is subject to arrest.
LSU’s policy on alcohol states that students younger than 21 cannot drink in campus dwellings, including fraternity and sorority houses, but it does not outline the punishment for doing so.
Whether underage drinking in dorms is reported on crime records varies among Louisiana universities. Tulane also doesn’t include underrage drinking in dorms in its Clery Act reports, according to a university spokesperson. Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Lafayette do.
Laura Egan, senior director of programs at the Clery Center, which works with colleges and universities to meet the act’s reporting requirements, said it was “unusual” for LSU not to have reported any internal discipline for drug and alcohol violations over three years.
“It’s a little bit unlikely for a school the size of LSU to have zero disciplinary referrals,” Egan said. “I would say I’m surprised by that.”
Wes Perkins, a professor of sociology at Hobart and Williams Smith Colleges specializing in alcohol and substance abuse in adolescents and young adults, said he isn’t sure that LSU’s police-only policy on drug and alcohol discipline is more effective in curbing illegal activity.
When a university requires that the police be involved in every minor infraction, administrators, resident assistants at student dorms and students themselves are going to be hesitant to report incidents.
“They know that they're really going to get their peers or their students in a lot of trouble, and it's going to get parents involved in ways that may be unpleasant,” Perkins said.
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For example, if a resident assistant finds students drinking just outside the dorm, rather than call the police, “the tendency would be for, in many instances, to tell them to take it back inside,” Perkins said.
Fewer reports of infractions at LSU does not necessarily mean that fewer students are involved in binge drinking or substance abuse, Perkins said.
Most campuses are reluctant to turn their campus into a “police state,” Perkins said, “so if there's a lot of hesitation about calling the police, then it's only going to be potentially effective in the worst of situations.”
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