Swift action at Aston

Aston University in Birmingham took swift action recently when it came to light that a member of staff and four student union sabbatical officers had shared a cannabis joint last summer.

They informed the police immediately - as recommended by the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals in their guidelines on drugs. The local police declined to act in line with their policy of not prosecuting first offences of simple possession. As a result no further action was taken by the university against the four student sabbatical officers. However, Aston's student guild suspended the four students from membership for a short time.

But the staff member, who was general manager of the students' union, did not get off so lightly. He is now facing a gross misconduct hearing, according to David Packham, secretary/registrar of Aston University.

"The group did admit the use of cannabis and our general policy is that if there has been a criminal offence we report it to the police," says David Packham. "Whatever anyone thinks about the legalisation of cannabis, that's the current position. It is illegal and we report all such cases."

The university has no widespread problem of drug abuse, certainly not hard drugs, according to Packham. This year he has had to deal with three cases of drug-taking, but they are the first ones for a couple of years. "It's not an everyday offence."