USP students warned of expulsion over drugs

Students at the University of the South Pacific have been warned they could be expelled if they are caught dealing illicit drugs

A USP student was convicted in the Suva Magistrates Court this week for possession of illicit drugs.

Kessler Anton from Papua New Guinea pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana, after police found the drug in his room on 1 August.

The court, however, will not register Anton's conviction because it said the student was unlikely to reoffend.

Instead, Anton was bound over for $US235 and told he would have to pay the sum if he reoffended.

USP Vice Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia said the university had a zero-tolerance policy against drugs.

But he said the university had not decided what action it would take against the student.

"This is a student in one of our halls of residence," he said.

"He was expelled from the hall of residence immediately and has been referred to the student disciplinary committee.

"We are trying to make our students aware that they need to comply with the USP's code of conduct that we have as this is not the kind of behaviour that we tolerate.

"The actions taken in the court will be fully supported by the university."

Ahluwalia said any student involved in drugs would be reported to the police and could be expelled.

The USP's security department had recently been alerted to reports of increased drug activity at the university, he said.

"These issues are also dealt with by our student disciplinary committee," he said.

Ahluwalia welcomed the court's decision not to register the student's conviction.

He said while the situation was not one where drugs were rife on campus, the vice chancellor would like to address the issue.

"It's not like it's such a massive problem that students are fearful for what's going on or that there are gangs lining up outside the university.

"I'm equally pleased with the court's decision because we have to be realistic and not effectively condemn people for the rest of their lives.

"It's better if we rehabilitate people and this is a policy of the university and help them not to reoffend because we don't want to ruin somebody's career over a first offence."

Ahluwalia said the university had counselling services available on campus to help students.

He also said there had been awareness programmes held by the students on drug issues.

"We have security, our gates are secure. We do monitor who comes into the campus. But our main focus is to ensure that our students are being supported."

Ahluwalia urged the students to concentrate on why they were at the university.

He said getting caught up with drugs was not worth it.

"Students were risking their education and for many of our Pacific students, their parents have made many sacrifices for them to come here.

"And why would they jeopardise this for a cheap thrill."

Police Chief of Operations, Assistant Commissioner Abdul Khan said they were working with the university on tightening its security measures.

The USP Student Association said it was holding drug awareness programmes on Fridays at the Laucala Campus to prevent students from getting involved in drugs.

In a statement, the association said a senate meeting of the cultural group heads and representatives of the faculty from the USP's 12-member countries was held last week to promote a drug-free university.

"We really don't know who the drug dealers or buyers are because there are many students on campus," it said.

"But all we can do is conduct outreach awareness events so that students think twice before making the wrong moves."