Distrust and the WWU Drug Policy
By Claira Eastwood
Go into any of the buildings on the Walla Walla University campus and you will be greeted by a sign that declares the University as drug and tobacco free. The WWU drug policy strictly prohibits the use of recreational drugs, including marijuana. Despite the fact that about 43% of the United States population lives in a state where marijuana use is legal, the University maintains its stance on keeping the campus 100% recreational drug free. 
Assistant Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students David Iwasa believes that the WWU drug policy is beneficial for students in a myriad of ways. “The overarching policy is always about concern for the student and their wellbeing,” Iwasa said.  The policy, though seeming harsh to some students, has been put in place as a way to keep students safe and out of harm’s way.
On the flip side, a piece of the University’s drug policy that is often overlooked is the amnesty that is offered for students who wish to help themselves or someone they know. When explaining the amnesty policy, Iwasa said, “These rules are for the protection and care of students. Right off the bat, the [drug] policy starts with the care for students and with the amnesty policy.”
The problem with the drug policy is that students who are dealing with a drug addiction may have a difficult time abiding by it. While the policy exists in order to keep the student body safe, it cannot be said that religious beliefs have not had an influence on the policy.
We can find ourselves asking whether or not a religious motive is enough to keep students from engaging in recreational drug use. Not everyone who attends WWU is a practicing Seventh-day Adventist, or even religious at all. The argument can, of course, be made that if you choose to attend an Adventist university you are choosing to also abide by the rules and policies that are put in place, and this argument is often correct. However, it leaves little room for nuance.
When speaking about the investigation process that occurs if someone is thought to have been using recreational drugs, Iwasa explained that the standards of what constitutes proof that someone has been using drugs is relatively low. When looking to decide whether to sanction a student or not, the question is, “Is it more likely true that the student used drugs than not true?”
This means that if it seems 51% true that someone on campus has been using drugs, they will be sanctioned as if it is 100% true. This is a practice called ‘preponderance of evidence’ and is a common procedure among college campuses. This is also the same degree of evidence required in Title IX cases at Walla Walla University.
Not only are the standards of proof low, but if someone is being investigated for drug use, they are more than likely being investigated for other student code of conduct violations as well. The disciplinary process includes looking at past disciplinary actions that have been taken.
If a student is concerned regarding their own or someone else’s drug use, they can bring their concerns to the attention of a dean or Iwasa himself. According to the student handbook, those who inform someone of the situation can be covered by one of three student safety policies: medical amnesty, Good Samaritan, or self-referral. All of these safety policies mean that you can inform someone of your own or someone else’s drug use in the event of a medical emergency, out of general concern for someone you know, or to get help for yourself without facing the risk of being sanctioned.
“I think a lot of students don’t realize or don’t trust the process,” Iwasa says, “we do work with students who are struggling with an addiction. They can come get help and not have any sanctions.”
1. Lopez, German. (20 April, 2021). Marijuana legalization has won. VOX. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3xSebwr.
2. Interview with David Iwasa, 4/29/2021.