November 29, 2012
It was an ordinary Wednesday. Almost too ordinary. I crept down the stairs of Christian A. Johnson Hall to turn in my math assignment, completely unaware of the horrors to come. As I waited to ask one last question, I thumbed through a few emails, like usual. Massage Chair Tuesday, Meditation Club, those obnoxious Quiz Bowl emails, you name it. No one could have predicted what would come next.
It was an email from each of my parents with links to reputable New York City news sources detailing a heroin arrest on-campus from the night before. My jaw dropped and my mind began to race. Is this what Hamilton College is? Is there a drug culture I am just not aware of? I quickly calmed down, realizing that even though this single event may have been alarming for a moment, it was no indicator of a campus-wide problem. Noticing that both students were thankfully in good health, I saw that it wasn’t as much of a horror story as it could have been. Rather, it was just a somewhat atypical day in normal college life.
Colleges have long represented an important transition period in the American life. Freshly graduated from high school and often away from home for the first time, students come to college more open-minded. This reduced inhibition leads to experimentation that takes place in the classroom, in extracurriculars and, of course, in social life. College is often a haven for behaviors that wouldn’t have taken place close to home and are often sex or drug related. Hamilton College represents an approximate stock image of the American college experience in this sense.
Although I have not explored every nook and cranny of Hamilton College, I believe that I have been able to get a pretty good handle on the types of weekend activities that students engage in. By talking to friends and experiencing things first-hand, I’ve found our small campus is not too hard to figure out. Alcohol and marijuana are aplenty. Cocaine and a few other similarly potent friends creep around. Anything else is hard to come by. I just described Hamilton College’s drug scene and, you guessed it, that of almost any other American college out there.
Unfortunately, when something like this happens, Hamilton College’s name is attached to the incident. To outsiders and the general population who might read something like People magazine where the news most recently appeared, the previously unknown Hamilton College becomes “that school with heroin” rather than “that little Ivy.” Planted in those minds is a small blemish that can only be erased with time. To others, one heroin arrest is no big surprise. Even though potentially lethal drugs are in no way visible on our campus or probably most others, the nature of the American college experience almost guarantees some, even if incredibly infrequent, appearances of these drugs on campus. It is certainly not preferable, but it shouldn’t come as a shock either. Drugs are here, but not more than at any other school. Heck, we’re not even listed on The Daily Beast’s “Thirty Druggiest Colleges.” Sure, Hamilton has a drinking problem and is gladly addressing it. However, Hamilton doesn’t have a heroin problem.
Hamilton College is not and will not be defined by a single heroin arrest or the actions of what I am almost certain come from a small population on this campus. Hamilton College is defined by the behavior of the citizens of its community which are many things other than hardcore druggies. We are smart. We are opinionated. We drink sometimes. We are not the best athletes in the country. We do not do hardcore drugs. These are generalizations that aren’t necessarily true about any given person at Hamilton, but can certainly be applied to our general population.
Thankfully, the reaction from both the campus and the administration so far has seemed to echo these sentiments. Although it might have caused buzz for a day or two, the campus voice was relatively silent on the topic after this. I saw but one Facebook post concerning it. Appearances of the streaking team are much more notorious. And as for Hamilton’s administration? All we’ve seen so far was a message from Nancy Thompson which outlined the protocol for contacting medics about dangerous situations involving drugs and alcohol. She also emphasized the importance of health and safety. There’s another thing. We are healthy. We are safe. In my opinion, Hamilton has its priorities in line.