Editorial: College’s drug testing proves well-intended but impractical

Would you want to take a drug test just to go to classes?

That’s the newest policy at Linn State Technical College in Missouri, which has mandated that all incoming freshmen, as well as returning students who have taken off a semester or more, submit urine samples for drug testing.

This move is misguided, although probably well-intended. Testing anyone for drugs without a safety reason or suspicion of use is something we cannot endorse.

Vanessa Ko wrote that the move is “considered unprecedented for a public college” in Time Magazine’s Sept. 9 issue.

The institution has defended itself by arguing that because it is a technical college and a large number of the students will be dealing with heavy equipment, it is merely reflecting workplace standards in its own policies.

That is a reasonable argument to make, except for one small problem: the school is mandating that all students take a drug test, regardless of whether or not the students actually deal with equipment or not.

This strikes us as a situation where good intentions have gone too far and, unfortunately, this policy could set a negative precedent for what public institutions can and cannot demand of their students.

The Lariat is not advocating for drug usage under any circumstances, but the policy is misguided in that it takes the focus off the real danger, which is that students will use narcotics and then also use heavy equipment and machinery.

There’s a simple enough fix to this problem: make drug testing mandatory for those who wish to work with equipment.

This brings the focus back to the actual issue and allows for the administration of Linn State Technical College to focus on what really matters in this context, which is keeping students safe.

The idea that you need to test every incoming freshman for drug usage before it can come to school is ludicrous. Not only is it not cost effective, but it opens up nothing but problems for the rest of the students at the school and even the administration implementing the policy.

If someone really wanted to continue using drugs, won’t they just go to another school or wait until after they’ve taken their incoming drug test?

This puts Linn State in a double bind – it can either continue testing students throughout their time at the college or they can accept that students will simply pass the first test and then continue to engage in harmful activities.

The problem at this point isn’t so much that it might catch some students using drugs but more that it places an unfair burden on students who aren’t using drugs and the taxpayers in the state.

Should taxpayers be expected to repeatedly pay for the drug testing of students, despite the fact that no evidence suggests these students are actually engaging in drug usage?

To mandate drug testing for students dealing with dangerous equipment or even athletes is one thing.

To demand that all students and taxpayers pay (at least indirectly) for drug testing for all students is an unnecessary cost placed on students who have done nothing to deserve it.

We would encourage Linn State and all other schools considering adopting such a policy to take a more moderated approach. That would ensure the focus is actually on student safety, not creating artificial costs for students and taxpayers that may not deserve to pay it.