Altering the perception of drug use on campus

Heba Dafashy

A six-month drug bust operation that occurred last Wednesday at Texas Christian University resulted in the arrest of 17 students. Four of those students were high-profile football players. Fox News reported that the students arrested were caught making “hand-to-hand” sales of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription drugs to undercover officers.

After a team drug test, an undercover cop asked linebacker Tanner Brock if he was worried about the results. Brock allegedly answered saying that it wouldn’t be a problem since there “would be about 60 people screwed,” according to Fox News. This statement sparked rumors that the majority of the football team was involved in drug usage.

However, TCU claims that this figure is unverified and that such statements cannot be trusted since they are in the context of a drug buy. This case raises some interesting questions regarding college drug use. Does Brock’s perception that the majority of the football team is involved in drugs influence his level of involvement? Perhaps if Brock’s perception reflected that he would be one of the few who would fail the drug test, he would not have been involved in the deal to start with.

In a 2010 National Collegiate Health Assessment study conducted at UT, students were asked how much they believed other students were using drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, sedatives, hallucinogens, opiates and other club drugs. The study found that students believed that 75 percent of UT students had used drugs in the previous 30 days, but the reality was that only 8 percent of the students at UT reported using such drugs.

These numbers definitely raise some eyebrows, but what is most interesting is that the typical student perception is almost 10 times more than the actual reported figure. What this means is that UT students have created an idea of certain characteristics that the average student at the University possesses. According to the study, most UT students believe the typical college student uses drugs. The falsity of this statement reflects the skewed norms that are created for the average college experience.

Students are highly influenced by “college norms.” These norms are often reflected in fashion choices such as the brand of shorts students may choose to wear or the brand of backpack students may choose to purchase. Although there are many people who fall outside a “norm,” the norm is the most comfortable standard to follow.

The belief that three out of four students at the University use drugs makes students think drug use is more acceptable and thereby may increase the likelihood that students will try them. Creating this “college norm” is dangerous because it can increase drug use.

UT students should change this perception and create new norms that reflect the truth and integrity of the University. If the students at TCU perceived that the norm on campus was not the usage of drugs, then the bust may not have occurred on this same level. With college norms that encourage others, perhaps following a norm would not be that bad of a thing after all.

Dafashy is a Plan II senior.