College Park students can opt for testing

April 04, 1991|By Patricia Meisol

In the wake of basketball star Len Bias' death from a cocaine overdose in 1986, the University of Maryland College Park instituted an optional random testing policy that remains unique among American colleges and universities.

In 1988, agreeing to being tested for drugs for one year became an alternative to suspension for students found guilty by a university judicial board of drug use or possession on campus. Since then, all but four of the 60 to 80 students committing drug offenses have opted for such testing.

After Mr. Bias' death, a task force on drug use at College Park considered but rejected random drug testing of all students.

But on the recommendations of the panel, headed by former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, College Park instituted what is regarded to be one of the strictest drug policies in the country, according to Gary Pavela, director of judicial programs at College Park and editor of the national journal Synthesis: Law and Policy in Higher Education.

College Park students found guilty of drug use or of limited possession have a choice of suspensionor random drug testing. Maryland is the nation's only school offering the testing option, Mr. Pavela said.

Those found guilty of distributing drugs are expelled outright. Mr. Pavela said none of the students who agreed to the random tests after a guilty finding has tested positive for drugs.

Campus police have played a key role in investigating drug use on campus.

Two years ago an undercover investigation by the force of drug-related and other offenses at Alpha Epsilon Pi led to the fraternity's eviction from its university-owned house and, ultimately, to its disbanding.

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