According to the community living policies, students who have roommates that commit a drug or alcohol violation may be liable for joint responsibility.
“If you live in the residence halls, you are responsible for what is in your room,” Phil Covington, associate dean of Student Life, said. “The CA will document what is in the room, and who is present.”
If students do not report a roommate who is violating the community living policies, or has a guest who violates policy, then they may be charged with joint responsibility.
“A student may be charged with joint responsibility only if that student was reasonably unaware that a policy violation was taking place,” states the community living policy.
When a student reports a roommate that is violating drug and alcohol policy, they are documented as being present.
The information is then handled by Student Rights and Responsibilities.
“Documentation does not mean a charge,” Covington said. “Being documented will not follow you. Joint responsibility that is charged is documented and discoverable.”
Former community adviser Donald Moore heard of coworkers handling situations where one roommate reports the other for a drug or alcohol violation, but never had to face one himself.
“By the book, I tell (them) I have to dock both of them (for alcohol or drugs),” Moore said. “What I would do though, is have the roommate deal with the situation himself, and if he couldn’t, try and help him get a room change.”
Moore said that the reason both roommates would be written up for the violation is that it the substance could belong to either or both roommates, and you may try to get out of a violation by blaming the other roommate.
“Most of the CAs I know who have had to deal with this situation find it to be pretty crummy,” Moore said. “We understand why we have to do it, the possible outcome that the person is telling on someone to get out of trouble.”
The punishment for joint responsibility is disciplinary censure, a formal and written statement.
Any other violations, even if it would qualify as joint responsibility, is charged as an alcohol or drug violation.
“The only alternative I know is to move out of the room,” Moore said.
According to Moore, the policy is intended to prevent students who are equally guilty from placing the blame on their roommates, students feel a downside to a policy that can punish a student when speaking out or being charged for the actions of their guests.
“It is inappropriate for USD to hold us responsible for our roommates,” first-year Jon Davis said. “A lot of us do not know what our roommates are up to. If you expect us to report them, it is not OK to still hold us responsible for that. We are placed into a no-win situation that is just a ticking time bomb.”
However, Covington said the policy goes beyond the accuser being documented, and joint responsibility can be applied if one roommate does not report the other for violating policy.
“If you don’t say anything, then you are held responsible,” Covington said.