The New York Post is billing an "exclusive" this week about how Columbia University has systematically failed to report its drug-using student populace to police or prosecutors. The not-so-earth-shattering expose comes on the heels of last week's big frat house drug bust, which led to the arrests of 5 students. But it's actually a non-story because -- it turns out -- other city schools are just as bad, if not worse, at referring campus drug incidents to local authorities!
According to Columbia's 2009 campus crime report [pdf], last year the school witnessed 121 drug-related incidents in its dormitories that it referred for disciplinary action within the school, but which led to zero arrests by local law enforcement. Implying, as the Post noted, that the prestigious university failed to report any of those incidents to police.
Yet other city schools don't necessarily fare much better.
NYU's campus crime report
[pdf] shows 92 drug incidents referred for disciplinary action in its Washington Square-adjacent dorms and a staggering 520 incidents in its other dorms and facilities. But like Columbia, NYU reported zero arrests within its residence halls or facilities (although it did report 151 arrests on public property, which includes city streets, sidewalks, and Washington Square Park itself).
And even without the public property arrests, NYU's drug numbers still dwarf those of other city schools. Though to be fair, so does its student population -- NYU enrolls roughly 40,000 students and is one of, if not the, largest private university in the country.
Columbia, by comparison, has only around 28,000 students; and while the CUNY system enrolls more than 200,000 students, they are split among several campuses throughout the city. Other private schools, like the New School and Pace University, have as few as 10,000 and 15,000 students, respectively.
Pace University (which is, incidentally, neighbors with the NYPD), said it had zero drug-related arrests
on its Manhattan campus last year, but did not mention whether any incidents occurred that were referred for school disciplinary actions. (It certainly had at least one drug incident this year, when a Pace student selling marijuana from his Financial District apartment was fatally shot
How colleges report campus crime has traditionally been required and regulated by a federal law called the Jeanne Clery Act
. But the Clery Act doesn't require much specificity from schools when reporting the nature or severity of the crimes they report. It doesn't, for instance, force schools to say whether kids are caught with pot or heroin (or even whether they're merely using or dealing). A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education, which is tasked with enforcing the law, said the agency does "not have a position" on these issues, merely that they "require the disclosure of the information that Congress requires in the Higher
But Charles Sczuroski, a former sergeant with the Pawtucket, R.I., police department and a senior trainer for campus crime prevention at the National Crime Prevention Center, said it would be helpful if schools volunteered more specific information. "From a crime prevention perspective? Absolutely," Sczuroski said. "But from a practical sense, I think school officials could argue that, 'Hey, we're not the police, we're a higher learning institution."
"But as a parent and as a crime prevention practitioner, any time we can do a better job of reporting more accurately crime, I'm all for it," he added. "And I'm sure local law enforcement would probably appreciate that stance."
Still, there are times, Sczuroski said, when it's actually better for schools to handle drug offenses "in-house."
"In some cases, the students on campus would get more severe sanctions than if they were put through local drug courts," Sczuroski said. "It's not meant at all to be disrespectful to local law enforcement."
After all, in a city of 8 million people and more than 80 colleges and universities, it would be quite a burden on the police department to respond each time some kid lights a doobie at a frat party, right?