CU Boulder is America's druggiest campus? Spokesman offers rebuttal & 4/20 move update

Last week, in a post about the CU Boulder student legislative council passing a resolution to move the annual 4/20 event off campus, we noted that the university had topped a survey by Newsweek and the Daily Beast of the nation's druggiest colleges. But CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard -- who lauds the student government's 4/20 resolution -- suggests that this designation was based on flawed data.

According to Hilliard (a longtime friend of yours truly), Newsweek and the Daily Beast based their rankings in part on figures submitted by schools under the Clery Act, a 1990 law that requires institutions "to do things like issue a timely warning when there's a threat to public safety and requires us to provide crime statistics for a range of crimes, from burglary to sexual assault to drug arrests."

Problem is, the folks at the CU Police Department made a mistake when compiling the figures, listing each criminal count as a separate arrest. As a result, a single bust in which a person faced four drug-related charges was inadvertently quadrupled, boosting the figures considerably. The Newsweek/Daily Beast survey showed 801 drug arrests at CU in 2010, but after crunching the numbers, the CUPD discovered there had actually been 351. The last number is still up from 2009 -- something the university expected, since it had instituted a new residence-hall policy that had increased the number of police contacts -- but only 43 percent of the digit the study conductors used.

Hilliard adds that the CUPD had also reported some drug crimes not specifically required by the Clery Act, which could have also inflated the figure.

Because the study used other information to arrive at its ranking in addition to the Clery Act submissions, there's no telling where CU would have scored if accurate info had been utilized. But in Hilliard's view, "it doesn't much matter whether you score number one or number ten. Nobody wants to show up in a survey like that in the top twenty -- and nobody has any illusions at CU Boulder that this isn't an issue. We're doing more things at more levels to cut down on alcohol and drug use and abuse than at any time in CU's history" -- tactics outlined in this item about Michael Hoffman, CU's first drug-and-alcohol overdose victim in seven years.

At the same time, Hilliard isn't overly impressed by the druggiest schools survey, or other pageview-generating projects like it. "There's this proliferation of lifestyle rankings: Playboy, the Princeton Review, number one party school, reefer madness. Somebody two or three years ago ranked the douchiest schools. And then other media pick up on these polls, and they get spread throughout the digital media world, and then you're off to the races. But when you're looking at these things, you sort of have to ask, 'What value does this add to anyone making a decision about where to go to school?'"

Page down for an update about 4/20 on the CU Boulder campus.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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