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Bust at Pot Party Raises Questions at Wesleyan

November 3, 1989

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) _ A group of Wesleyan University students say they thought they had the school’s tacit approval to revive an annual drug party, and say the arrest of only one of the revelers proves their point.

″They didn’t really do anything to stop it,″ said sophomore Marc Flacks of last week’s bash in a university dining hall, dubbed the ″Smoke Out.″

″They brought in a few cops instead of a whole army. It seemed to me that they were saying, ’We don’t approve of this but we’re not doing anything to stop it.‴

The Oct. 27 party, which was advertised by posters around campus, was to revive a lapsed 15-year-old school tradition at the prestigious, liberal arts college. Students gathered in a dining hall to beat drums, clang cowbells, rattle maracas and smoke marijuana.

A second day of partying, called ″Uncle Duke Day″ - named after the self- indulgent, drug abusing character in the comic strip ″Doonesbury″ - was devoted to taking LSD and playing party games, Flacks said.

Wesleyan officials defended the university’s anti-drug policy, noting that they tipped police off to the party and that two students were arrested last year for selling drugs.

″Wesleyan doesn’t condone drugs,″ said Bobby Wayne Clark, a university spokesman. ″It’s not a drug sanctuary. What we do know about and what we can respond to, we will respond to.″

But Flacks and several other students say the university’s response, combined with the school’s stated policy, showed that the university tacitly approved of the use of marijuana and LSD.

″What they’re saying silently is that they don’t consider it serious,″ said Louis Maggiotto, a sophomore from Hastings on Hudson, N.Y.

The school’s policy, contained in its code of conduct, defines the use of cocaine and heroin as ″serious breaches,″ but does not mention the use of marijuana or LSD.

″In the blue book, which is the sort of Magna Carta for the school, there’s nothing explicit about marijuana or acid,″ said Flacks, a resident of Santa Barbara, Calif. ″So there is a kind of tacit approval of marijuana and acid. Arresting just one person was still sort of an approval.″

School officials conceded the difficulty of policing casual drug use by students.

″Wesleyan shouldn’t make a bunch of rules for cosmetic reasons that it can’t enforce or has no intention to enforce,″ said Edgar Beckham, dean of the college. ″In order to keep rules credible, you have to keep them enforceable. What does the banning of a single joint do for the institution?″

Beckham said the university will probably re-examine the policy in light of threats from the Bush administration to make federal education grants contingent on the toughness of a school’s anti-drug policy.

Wesleyan is a private university with an enrollment of about 3,400.

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