By Madison Heiser
Photo by Chris Swann
Tyler Junior College revised its 2020 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report on March 16. The annual report is required by federal law under the Clery Act, which requires transparency between college officials and students regarding crime on campus, according to the Clery Center.
The 2020 report includes crime statistics for TJC campuses and facilities in 2019. Specific amendments to the 2020 report involve drug-related arrests, referrals and citations on campus. According to Michael Seale, chief of police at TJC, referrals involve investigation by the Office of Student Conduct at TJC. Citations are issued when an individual commits a Class C misdemeanor and promises to appear in court for the charge. Arrests involve taking an individual into custody and booking them into jail for any offense under Texas law.
According to the report, drug-related arrests increased from seven to 10. Drug-related referrals on campus decreased from 31 to 10. Drug-related referrals in campus housing facilities decreased from 24 to nine.
Only violations of state law are required to be included in the annual safety report, according to Seale. The 21 drug-related referrals that were removed from the report were only violations of campus policy, not state law. Additionally, three drug-related arrests were initially classified as referrals but were counted correctly as arrests in the updated report. Seale said these arrests were incorrectly classified as referrals in the initial report and were updated for accuracy in the amended report.
“TJC’s drug-related policies are different from state/federal laws in that one can be disciplined for drug-related usage, possession and distribution. Under state and federal laws, one can only be charged with possession or distribution,” Seale said. This means one cannot be criminally charged for drug use alone, but the college can take up disciplinary action against individuals caught using drugs.
According to Seale, TJC has a “zero-tolerance” drug policy on campus, which can be found in the student handbook on TJC’s website. If a student violates this policy, they will be summoned to the Office of Student Conduct to answer for their actions.
This zero-tolerance policy also applies to student housing as outlined in TJC’s Housing code of conduct handbook on the college website. According to Steve Logan, director of Residential Life and Housing at TJC, violations of campus drug policy generally result in removal from the residence halls as well as disciplinary action from the college’s administration. Although responses to drug policy violations are similar among residential students, Logan said each situation is investigated and adjudicated individually. Seale said each student under investigation will be temporarily removed from their residence hall, but if found to be in violation of campus policies, they will be permanently removed from TJC housing facilities.
Students who violate campus drug policy as well as state law are also subject to legal action, in addition to disciplinary action from the school’s administration. According to Seale, “if one breaks state and federal law, officers will use their discretion and take action based on the circumstances and what is allowed by law.”
Consequences for drug law violations range in severity depending on the infraction, according to the annual safety report. Possession and/or delivery of marijuana may result in a monetary fine of up to $50,000 and/or jail time between 180 days and 99 years. Possession, manufacture and/or delivery of controlled substances (other drugs such as cocaine, heroin and narcotics) can result in similar punishment, but the maximum monetary fine is set between $10,000 and $100,000 depending on the infraction.
“Violations of state and federal laws can result in fines, incarceration, community service, and other forms of punishment given by the court. Violations of TJC policies can result in fines, community service, substance awareness classes, suspension, expulsion, eviction, or other forms of approved disciplinary action by the Office of Student Conduct or Residential Life,” Seale said.
To access the 2020 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, as well as other campus reports regarding crime and COVID-19 cases, visit tjc.edu/campuspolice/reports.