If you want to better understand the nature of illicit drug and alcohol use on American college campuses, you need to check the data. The most comprehensive data source available – covering the most colleges across the most measures of crime – is held by the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE). It’s called the OPE Campus Safety and Security Statistics database and every year all colleges that receive Title IV funding from the government, no matter how renowned or ramshackle they are, report what arrests have been made on and around their campuses and residence halls so that the OPE can update its records accordingly.
The database is very far-reaching, with figures for nearly 10,000 different institutions dating back more than a decade. However, it doesn’t go into very much detail about each one. For instance, it records the number of drug arrests each college has, but not the specific drugs people are arrested for possessing. Nor does it specify whether arrestees are students of the college or non-students who are merely passing through the campus when apprehended by its police. The location of arrests is also quite vague, being dichotomized into either on-campus or off-campus. So too is the time at which arrests take place: In fact, there is no specific time point given, only that they occurred at some point during the 12 months that are being reported. These limits mean that once you’ve calculated the per capita rates of arrests and presented them in some pretty-looking tables, you’re left staring at a wall. Further analysis and a deeper understanding of drug and alcohol use on college campuses isn’t possible, simply because the OPE data is too vague.
To go deeper, one would need to find public records that are much more specific, detailing exactly when arrests took place, the precise charges, who was being arrested, where they lived, and perhaps even their ages. Unfortunately, not many colleges publish crime statistics detailed enough to meet our proposed research requirements. One that does is The University of Iowa, which is a happy accident, because it also happens to be the number one party college in America. In other words, it is the ideal campus to scrutinize if we want to move beyond the confines of the OPE’s simplistic numbers.
Using The University of Iowa’s data, we can for the first time see where arrests took place, who was nabbed, what they did, where they were living at the time, and how old they were – everything we require to potentially learn more about the culture of crime on college campuses.
Before we put The University of Iowa’s crime stats under the microscope, it’s worth explaining why it bears such scrutiny, apart from the fact that its crime logs are so detailed. After all, there are thousands of other schools out there, many with much higher drug and alcohol arrest rates than UI. What they don’t have, however, is the dubious accolade of being named 2014’s number one party school by the Princeton Review, which publishes annual top 20 rankings based on survey responses from more than 120,000 college students.
This year, UI topped the Party School list, having placed second in 2013, fourth in 2012, and ninth in 2011. It also ranked number one this year in “lots of hard liquor,” number four in “students study the least,” number four in “lots of beer,” number seven in “students pack the stadiums,” and number 18 in “lots of Greek life.” In short then, UI has a reputation worthy of inspection. Some of its students would appear to agree.
The last comment above, made by a college student and found with the others on College Prowler, alludes to the consequences of drug-taking, under-age drinking, and binge-drinking at UI. The map below shows more than a thousand of such consequences. Each dot is a drink- or drug-related arrest made in 2013 by UI’s police. They have been coded and geographically plotted according to the location information found in UI’s 2013 crime log.
Even without previous knowledge of UI’s physical layout, it’s easy to see that there were quite a few arrests made in 2013 in and around its campus. In fact, there were 1,314 arrests, consisting of 1,820 charges (sometimes arrests entail multiple charges, i.e. the shameful combination of, say, public intoxication and public urination). For each recorded drug-related charge, there were five alcohol-related ones and, although not all arrests involved drinking or drugs, most of them did (77%, to be precise).
Although UI’s crime log is quite detailed, it doesn’t specifically state the enrollment status of those arrested. Despite this, UI’s annual crime report does state that 46% of arrestees in 2013 were UI students. This equates to many of those listed in the 2013 crime log being non-students. A few examples obviously weren’t, like those whose ages are listed as being over 40, 50, and even 70. To filter out a lot of these types of non-students, we only mapped and graphed arrests of people aged 18 to 25 (the age-range of three quarters of the UI student body). That doesn’t guarantee, however, that all of the young people arrested (and whose arrests are shown as dots on the map above) were UI students. The ones who most likely were students can be seen in the drug-related arrests (shown as blue dots), because almost all of them are clustered around UI’s residence halls on either side of the river. Even Mayflower Hall, shown right at the top of the map, has a considerable number of drug-related arrests, despite being quite far out from the main campus boundary.
Unlike drug arrests, alcohol-related arrests are more scattered across the campus, with the highest concentrations clustered around the downtown bars and Kinnick stadium, as one might expect.
Several comments on College Prowler confirm these bars as being favorite destinations for UI students, including the rather hard-partying contingent amongst them.
It seems a safe bet that an extremely large proportion of the drug-related arrests made by UI police involve UI students and a large number of the alcohol arrests do too, despite taking place in and around bars (which are just a stone’s throw from the residence halls). But we can do better than safe bets. UI’s crime log not only details where arrests took place, but also the residential addresses of the arrested persons. This means that we can see exactly where 18- to 25-year-olds arrested for alcohol- and drug-related offenses were living at the time they were charged.
1 in 5 of the arrest charges against 18- to 25-year-olds made by UI police in 2013 involved students living in buildings whose names included the word ‘Hall’ (i.e. residence halls). Accounting for UI students living near campus but not in the residence halls is much harder, but there are presumably a lot of those too. The ratio of the number of arrested students from each residence hall to the total hall population allows us to see which living location had the most arrests per capita. It turns out it was Quadrangle Hall, with 5.86 arrest charges per 100 residents, which is located on Near West Campus (and sits under the ‘90’ circle on the map).
We’ve now seen that drug-related arrests almost exclusively happen in and around residence halls, while alcohol-related arrests are more likely to happen near the bars and sports stadium. We can segment the drinking charges further, however.
The graph above confirms the fact that most arrests made by UI police involved 18- to 22-year-olds, but it also demonstrates a difference in the respective age groups of those arrested for drug versus alcohol offenses. The most frequently occurring age for persons arrested for alcohol offenses in 2013 at UI was 20, whereas for drug offenses it was 18 – two years younger. Perhaps 18-year-olds know they have little chance of making it past a bar’s front-door security, so they stick to smoking weed instead. It’s hard to say. We can see how alcohol offenses break down by type though. Most involved being in bars after hours, which we presume means being under-age in a downtown bar after 10 PM (when persons under 21 years old are supposed to leave). The next most common alcohol-related charge was public intoxication, followed by under-age drinking.
What do under-age drinkers do after (mostly) leaving the bars at 10 PM? Some probably keep drinking. And some of those people probably then get scooped up for public intoxication. Graphing offenses by the hour of the day they took place seems to back up this theory, or at least not contradict it.
After 10 PM, alcohol arrests become much more frequent, with a somewhat anomalous dip at midnight, and then peak at about 1 AM. Drug-related arrests are consistently low throughout the day, given that they are fairly uncommon, but again show a peak at around 1 or 2 AM.
Plotting arrests by the day of the week on which they occurred produces an easily distinguished pattern similar to those seen on the hour of the day graph. Alcohol arrests reach a significant peak on Saturdays (30% higher than on Fridays and 800% higher than Mondays). Drug arrests aren’t quite as variable, but still peak on Saturdays, although interestingly, Mondays saw almost the same number of drug-related arrests as Fridays.
Potentially more intriguing than the hour of the day and day of the week alcohol and drug arrests took place is the week of the year, given that academic calendars have known periods in which students are less likely to be staying in residence halls, or even anywhere near the college campus.
Graphing all arrests made by UI police over the course of 2013 shows an interesting result: There were nearly double the numbers of arrests in the 34th week of 2013 than any other week. The 34th week falls at the very end of August and beginning of September: rush week for fraternities and sororities. If it was ever in doubt, the above graph is strong supporting evidence that arrest rates correlate very closely with the presence or absence of the student population on campus, despite the fact that – according to UI’s annual security report – more than half of arrests were of non-students.
Given that there is substantial evidence to suggest that members of fraternities and sororities are more likely than non-Greeks to binge drink and take drugs, we thought we’d filter UI’s crime logs to see how often UI Greek chapter houses appeared among the residential address records.
Of the 26 chapters that have houses on or near UI’s campus, 13 appeared in the crime logs. 33 charges in all were filed against Greek students living in those houses, with the slight majority (7/13) belonging to fraternities, as opposed to sororities.
Despite being the alleged number one party school, UI isn’t known for Animal House-style Greek life, and Greeks make up only about 15% of the student population, which probably explains why only 33 charges in the crime log belonged to Greek students. Opinions on College Prowler about the attitude of Greeks at UI seem split between considering them stuck-up and exclusive, and the exact opposite.
Future exploration of the interaction between Greek life and drug and alcohol use might reveal more.
Our first Drugs on Campus report identified the University of Wisconsin’s Oshkosh campus as being the number one school for alcohol arrests in 2011 and number eight in 2012 (compared to other institutions who submit their crime data to the OPE with student populations higher than 5,000). Oshkosh wasn’t especially happy with the report, given that a reputation for student under-age/binge-drinking isn’t what any college wants, especially when that reputation has already inspired a ‘Sloshkosh’ novelty Twitter account, Facebook group, and entry on UrbanDictionary.com.
University Police Chief Joseph LeMire made the following comment, which was reported in Oshkosh’s online student magazine, the Advance-Titan:
LeMire said a problem with the statistics used in [the] report is the data about UWO includes more than just students. Officers arrest or cite a number of civilians in bordering parking lots and streets, such as Algoma Boulevard and High Avenue.
“In the areas of arrests or citations, 25 to 35 percent of the people we deal with are non- students,” LeMire said. “Even though they get included in the Clery Act numbers that we have to report to the federal government, you don’t differentiate between students and non- students. They all go into the same pile of numbers.”
The point about a significant portion of university police force arrests involving non-students is a valid one and something we’ve already covered to a certain extent. But we can revisit it paying particular attention to UW-Oshkosh’s own crime logs, which are quite detailed. They don’t list as much information about arrestees as Iowa’s, but they do list the locations where arrests were made. We went through the records and found that 53% of the drug and alcohol incidents logged by Oshkosh’s police took place right inside the residence halls. The table below shows which halls had the most and least in 2013.
Scott Hall, which is Oshkosh’s largest residence hall (and made up of North and South buildings) had the greatest number of drug and alcohol incidents logged by police in 2013.
16% of drug and alcohol incidents were classified in UWO’s crime log as taking place in ‘street locations’ like the ones mentioned by LeMire (Algoma Blvd. and the appropriately named High Avenue).
10% were classed as being in the ‘campus area’ but not inside a building.
We set about graphing the incidents in Oshkosh’s logs in the same way we did with Iowa’s: by hour of the day and month of the year. It’s by comparing detailed logs from multiple universities in this manner that we might begin to learn the commonalties between college campus drug and alcohol incidents, as well as the differences.
We can see above that there is a very similar pattern to what we saw in Iowa’s graph of incidents by hour of the day: they mostly happen in the early hours of the morning. In Oshkosh’s case, incidents begin to pick up about an hour earlier than at Iowa (with a sharp rise after 8 PM instead of 9 PM). The two colleges’ graphs also reveal a difference in the ratio of alcohol- to drug-related incidents. Of the alcohol and drug arrests at Iowa, 84% were related to alcohol and 16% were related to drugs. At Oshkosh, 69.5% of incidents were alcohol-related and 30.5% were drug-related. You can see this difference in the height of the drug incidents’ hump on the graph above. It creeps into the alcohol hump a lot more than on Iowa’s graph.
It makes total sense that most incidents take place at night. This is something you’d surely see outside of college campuses too. What about Oshkosh’s monthly arrest totals? How do they compare to Iowa’s?
We can again see a striking trend of incidents dropping sharply in the summer months and then spiking very dramatically at the start of the fall semester, just like we did at Iowa. Even if a third of arrests made by Oskosh’s campus police involve non-students, the other 70% are easily significant enough to create the pattern on the graph above. There’s also an interesting spike at the end of October and start of November on the Oshkosh graph for drinking incidents. It reaches even higher than the start of the fall semester. We checked the arrests around this time to see what might account for this unusually-timed increase. Of the 65 alcohol-related incidents, exactly two-thirds took place in residence halls. One-fifth happened in street locations and parking lots (public property), and the rest occurred around the rest of the campus, not in buildings. Perhaps an especially popular student had an epic birthday party, resulting in a hoard of intoxicated, arrestable students spilling out of the halls and around the rest of the campus.
Oshkosh’s crime logs, as previously mentioned, don’t give the ages of arrestees or place of residence, but they do specify more than Iowa’s records about the type of drug incidents that took place on campus. It’s not in earth-shattering detail, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Drug incidents are categorized as being general ‘in possession of a controlled substance’ offenses, or specifically marijuana-related. So, if someone were arrested with a shoe full of cocaine, their arrest would be logged as a controlled substance incident. If someone were stopped with a giant bong strapped to his or her back, they’d be specifically booked for possession of marijuana (and possession of drug paraphernalia, which is its own category). One interesting Oshkosh statistic: Of incidents involving drug possession, 62% were marijuana-related (either the actual drug or the odor/suspicion of it) and 31% were drug paraphernalia charges, which we suspect were almost entirely marijuana-related too (not crack pipes and meth-cooking kits). 2% were prescription drugs and the remaining 5% were unspecified ‘controlled substance’ charges.
The University of Iowa somehow managed to earn the title of number one party school. It’s this controversial award, coupled with the school’s exceptionally detailed, well-kept and transparently presented crime logs, that have allowed us a first glimpse at the facts that lie behind the dubious distinction of a first-place ranking. We now know that at UI drug arrests pervade the residence halls, alcohol-arrests surround the bars and stadium, that both drug and alcohol incidents spike at the start of the fall semester, on Saturdays and after midnight, and that the most common types of offenses are being in a bar after hours and (if Oshkosh’s records can be generalized to other colleges) the possession of marijuana.
In future reports, we’ll continue to probe these issues by examining and comparing other notable schools’ crime logs and in doing so, we hope to shed even more light on the subject of drugs on college campuses.
The Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool - http://www.ope.ed.gov/security/
The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Police Department - http://www.uwosh.edu/up/clery-crime-log
The University of Iowa Department of Public Safety - http://police.uiowa.edu/records/arrest-log/
Iowa Fraternity & Sorority Life - www.uiowafsl.com
College Prowler - https://colleges.niche.com
Advance-Titan - http://www.advancetitan.com/news/article_f7c3e04e-948c-11e3-a6a5-0017a43b2370.html
Greeks drink more, take more drugs - http://www.goupstate.com/article/20080218/NEWS/802180327
The Princtone Review - http://www.princetonreview.com/college-rankings.aspx
The use of the images and research in this project is encouraged, but please link to this page so your audience may learn about how the research was done and access all assets that are available.