Off-campus spiked drinks report spurs NU response

For many senior students, the last year of college is a pendulum that swings from utmost moments of fun and entertainment at Norwich to designing post-graduation future plans. For 21-year-old ‘Jamie,’ a student who requested anonymity, this semester offer a chance to collect some last few memories here at Norwich University.

Getting dolled up, putting makeup on, and seeing all of her friends is something she looks forward to after a long week of classes. Some weekends this means going bowling, other times this means going to a house party and socializing with other students.

Now close to being a college graduate, Jamie did not expect that all the little precautions she unconsciously has been applying over the years while out with friends might have saved her from being a target of a drugging.

On the weekend of Feb. 2 an incident involving “potential drugging” occurred during one of the parties off-campus. This event is still actively being investigated by local authorities.

The following Monday, Feb. 5, an emergency announcement was sent out from the office of student affairs through an email notifying students that “the alleged perpetrator provided drinks to students at the party and effects reportedly began almost immediately.”

A student reported the concerns that there appeared to be spiked drinks at a party to the Title IX office. As soon as Matt Roche, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Title IX coordinator, received the information, he notified the authorities.

“We just kind of hit the ground running,” Roche said. “The student was willing to participate with the police, so we had the police on campus immediately to launch an investigation.”

After a discussion, the student affairs office, Title IX, and campus safety office came to the conclusion that students needed to be notified. Following the investigation and the meeting, an emergency email was delivered to all Norwich students.

“We decided this was a required Clery notice that had to be sent out,” said Frank Vanecek, senior vice president for student affairs.

A clery notice refers to a warning required to be issued under the federal Clery Act. This act requires colleges and universities to notify students and employees in a timely manner when a threat or crime may be repeated. The notice is designed to allow campus members to be able to take precautions and protect themselves.

According to the email notice, the incident occurred during an off-campus party on Central Street. Even though the party took place outside the school’s campus perimeter, the notification was sent out in hopes that “students will be aware of and start taking precautions at these types of parties,” Roche said.

While the unfortunate event is still being investigated, the biggest concern is for safety at parties, and a reminder to always stick with familiar and trusted people when attending events.

Norwich University President Richard Schneider, recently called a convocation of the entire student community to discuss “inclusive leadership, which includes valuing each individual and looking out for others,” as the email notification by the president noted.. The emergency notification also invited students to be “active bystanders” which follows the mantra “if you see something, say something.”

The possible drugging attempt is a good example of reporting concerns. “An upstander is someone who’s going to take action and intervene in a situation,” Roche said, using the term upstander in place of active bystander.

Matthew Roche, new Title IX Coordinator. Photo by Andrew Thomas

“Students need to be comfortable inserting themselves in situations that they are not comfortable with, but also letting (proper authorities) know so we can address it and not allow it to continue on-campus.”

This type of leadership is the style that Norwich is trying to reinforce. NU is working to be a campus that does not allow students to get away with misconducts that should have been addressed or policy violations that have happened off-campus.

In Roche’s opinion, Norwich is “really trying to crack down on and address” actions that are not “acceptable or meet any of the standards that Norwich sets for students.”

Incidents involving drugged drinks at parties is not exclusive to Norwich, but a trend that is happening in institutions all over the United States.

Meghan Albrecht, a licensed independent clinical social worker and licensed counselor working for the Counseling and Wellness Center, did a little research to find out just how common this phenomenon of students reporting drinks being spiked is nationwide.

“A percentage on NBC.com said of 6000 college students interviewed nationwide, eight percent had been affected by it in some way, and one percent had admitted to actually doing it,” Albrecht said.

In a survey done by alcohol.org, 969 people were asked when the first time a drink or food item was spiked, and of those, 52 percent of people said they first experienced being drugged in college. In most cases, students had been spiked through a beverage; a few circumstances involved brownies containing marijuana.

Vanecek spoke about how there are many ways that students can receive helpful hints to be more aware while participating in social types of activities. Students can learn about these hints more in details from the staff of the Title IX office, as well as the Counseling and Wellness Center.

Simple precautions that may save you from spiked substances include: travel with trusted friends, not accepting food or drinks that are already open and without knowing who prepared them, and not leaving drinks unattended.

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