UNH ranks high in college arrest statistics

School officials view ranking as a sign of strong policy enforcement

By Melissa Proulx
On February 14, 2014

It's more than just a simple numbers game when trying to figure out the validity of UNH's party school reputation.

A recently published report on Rehabs.com named the colleges and universities in the United States that hold the highest drug and alcohol arrests based on data collected from 2009 to 2011. In the report, UNH was ranked 37 out of 50 for most on-campus drug arrests per 1,000 students and 20 out of 50 for most on-campus alcohol arrests per 1,000 students. In all, the university was ranked eight out of 20 for drug and alcohol arrests per 1,000 students.

When looking at UNH's arrest statistics from the last three years on the UNH Police Department's website, it is clear that these arrests make up a majority of the criminal activity on campus, providing some evidence for the findings. 

The UNH Police Department, which posts the crime statistics for the past three years on its website, recorded that between 2010 and 2012, 717 students were arrested on campus for violating liquor laws and 294 were arrested on campus for drug possession. 

These numbers, which do not include the drug and alcohol violations referred for disciplinary action during those years, are significantly higher than the other categories shown on the website. For example, during those years, only 18 individuals were charged with aggravated assault on campus.

But all of these statistics raise another question: is it simply a matter of geography? New Hampshire has, in the past, had it's own reputation of having some of the highest drug use and alcohol consumption rates in the country.

A look at the national statistics for the region only further explains these numbers. In its 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that in the New England Area alone, 56 percent of those who answered the survey reported using illicit drugs in their lifetime, with 17.6 percent saying that they had in the past year and 11.4 percent in the past month. These numbers were higher than the national averages, which were 49.6 percent, 14.9 percent and 8.8 percent, respectively.

And when it comes to drinking, the results were about the same. The 2010 SAMHSA report found that in New England, 92 percent said that they had consumed alcohol in their lifetime, with 78.3 percent saying they had in the past year and 67.8 saying they had in the past month. The national averages for these statistics were 87.5 percent, 70.4 percent, and 55.9 percent for the three categories.

And when compared to other schools in the New England area, UNH seemed to fair slightly better than some in terms of on campus drug arrests. Keene State College, for example, was number 20 out of 50 for most on-campus drug arrests per 1,000 students; the University of Connecticut was number 28 out of 50.


And when it came to drinking, UNH was one of three closely ranked New England schools in the top 50. Bridgewater State University and UMass-Amherst, both in Massachusetts, made 26 and 29 on the list. The University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh was the first in the category.


So with all these numbers, what does this mean about the overall culture of our campus? When asked, the authorities, the administrators and the students saw the report as only a small piece of the puzzle and not a serious threat.


For Paul Dean, UNH's executive director of public safety, he saw the results as a sign of stability rather than a sign of increased alcohol and narcotic abuse on campus.


"Arrest data is not the complete picture of any community's struggles with alcohol and other drugs," he said. "Relatively speaking, arrest data stays consistent. There is the occasional spike based on specific events."


For Mark Rubinstein, the vice president of student and academic services, the results were less than shocking but he does not see them as a blow against the university. Instead, they act more as a representation of how well "the underlying causes of the behavior" are being addressed in order to maintain campus safety. He holds an optimistic outlook, believing the numbers reflect a minority of students rather than the masses.


"They are accurate reports of the frequency of arrests that are made, but they do not define UNH students or this community," he sad. "Our students do a lot of good work, academically and as members and citizens of this community."


Anne Lawing, dean of students, only echoed these ideas.


"Are we serious about enforcing laws and policies? Yes we are," Lawing said. "And just as serious about education and information [to prevent these behaviors]."


And for the student body, the reactions are similar; many believe that the way some students behave does not define the student body as a whole.


"Obviously a lot of it is going on during the weekend of when we have events," Lauren Husson, a junior communications major, said. "But it's going to happen ay any school, I don't think we are more extreme than any of them."


And it is these reactions that Jon Millward, who conducted the study, hoped for, saying that this is really only a preliminary look at the university's culture since the data that he was looking at did not include the influences of different policies and standards that could have inflated the results.


"It would be easy to draw conclusion for this, but it really could just be a handful of people," he said. "The results have to be interpreted carefully one a case by case analysis."


In the end, it seems the results are only the beginning of a much larger conversation about the strength of UNH rather than it's downfalls.

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