Scholars Get Off Scot-Free

The most recent NYU campus safety report tells a different story. Published each year, it prints arrest statistics for on-campus crime. Between 1996 and 1998, NYU lists no arrests for liquor law and drug abuse violations. However, the Office of Drug and Alcohol Education at NYU recorded 84 violations involving drugs and alcohol during the fall 1998 semester alone, according to an October 1999 story in the University Wire. Arthur says that last year NYU received roughly 300 referrals for alcohol abuse and a comparable number for marijuana possession. She couldn't comment on drugs like Ecstasy or cocaine, stating, "Marijuana is our drug of choice here."

Tyrone Tinsley isn't aware of NYU's drug policy, nor is he a student living on campus. If he were, he might not have spent a night in jail last summer for possession of what he calls "just a pinch of marijuana." It was July, and Tinsley, 28, says he and two friends had just spent a hard day working as bike messengers. Like Joaquin Ryan, they were looking to blow off a little steam. Tinsley and his coworkers walked three blocks from their midtown office to a secluded area in M.C. Caffrey Playground, pulled out a joint, and started toking.

"I guess somebody went and told [the police], because they came way back into the park," recalls Tinsley. "I threw [the joint] down, but I didn't get away." After searching him, the cops found less than a gram, and hauled him into the 14th Precinct. Tinsley wound up spending 24 hours in the slammer while waiting for his case to be heard. He was sentenced to a day of community service, picking up trash in one of the local parks.

illustration: Mark Danielson

Tinsley wasn't practicing the best judgment when he lit up in a public place. But an NYU student busted for pot probably won't have to spend the night in jail. As Tinsley puts it, "It's unfair that they ain't getting treated like we're getting treated."

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