Code to remain unchanged


Drug-related arrests and judicial referrals have decreased from 2014 to 2015. Despite the city decriminalizing up to 10 grams of cannabis in January, the Student Conduct code for possession remains the same this academic year.

By Lindsey Salvatelli

Decriminalization to not alter NIU rules

DeKALB — While DeKalb has decriminalized possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis, students could still face Student Conduct violations when getting caught with possession on or off campus.

Cannabis possession remains a violation of municipal code and federal law, but it is now labeled as a civil violation rather than a criminal violation as of Jan. 1.

Student Conduct Director Jeanne Meyer said student conduct falls under administrative law, which allows institutions to make individual laws. Almost every university in the U.S. has a document outlining these behavioral expectations for students, Meyer said.

“In colleges, we have a standard that says this is our expectation for our students,” Meyer said. “So our code of conduct follows the best practices across the country for state institutions.”

Meyer said every year, an advisory board made up of faculty, staff, students and administrators determine which codes work best and reflect NIU’s culture and expectations.

“Cannabis, in particular, is against federal law,” Meyer said. “We, as an institution, in order to continue to receive federal financial aid, have to follow that.”

Current student conduct code requires first-time marijuana violators to take a substance use assessment and pay a $100 Student Conduct fine. Parents of students who are under 21 are notified, and all students are placed on conduct probation for one year.

Probation can limit student involvement in planning social events or deny them certain jobs with NIU, according to the code.

Within three days of reviewing a report, Student Conduct will contact the student for a preliminary conference with Student Conduct officials. If the office finds the student violated the code and the student contests the finding, the office gives the student a five-day notice for an administrative hearing.

The student conduct code sets minimum sanctions for cannabis violations for up to three violations. Each time a student violates student conduct, the fine increases by $25.

Meyer said the Student Conduct office has received notification from local police for off-campus municipal code violations for the past five years. Students can still receive a student conduct violation even when they’re out of state.

“Let’s say you’re in Alabama at spring break,” Meyer said. “I typically won’t get that, but sometimes someone will notify us because they know it’s an NIU student. So we take action whenever we hear about any offense of the code of conduct.”

On Jan. 1, DeKalb reduced fines for possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis and changed possession from a criminal violation to a civil violation.

This past July, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 2228, which amended the Cannabis Control Act, making “possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis … a civil law violation punishable by a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum fine of $200,” according to the bill.

Prior to the bill’s signing, possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana was considered a Class B misdemeanor.

In DeKalb, those charged with possession of 2.5 grams or less could mail in $350 within 21-days of their arrest. However, those who pled or were found guilty by the Circuit Court were required to pay $750, court fees and applicable lab fees, according to Sept. 21 City Council minutes.

“I would just encourage the students to be aware that just because something is decriminalized doesn’t mean that there are no consequences,” Meyer said. “That record stays with you even if it is an ordinance violation, and that could hinder future employment in some situations.”

Former NIU student Ash, who wished to not disclose her full name, said that she had student conduct sanctions applied to her in 2013.

“I know it’s on my official transcript record,” Ash said. “I haven’t had the opportunity to apply to a job that’s needed my college transcript for any reason, but I am afraid that it could possibly hinder [me].”

Lindsey Salvatelli is a staff writer. She can be reached at [email protected].