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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Skidmore President Speaks ... and Who's Counting

This morning's (May 5) Opinion page includes a lengthy letter to readers we received yesterday from Skidmore President Philip Glotzbach concerning the "420" pot party, the college's reaction, and plans moving forward. It is a thoughtful piece, one that should have been written for the public on 4/21.
About the numbers: Last Thursday, following a closed meeting about the handling of 420 that included reps from Skidmore and law enforcement,, D.A. Jim Murphy was quoted in other media that Skidmore security convincingly showed that the number of students participating in 420 was more like 25 rather than the 100 estimated by The Saratogian. After discussing this with him yesterday, Murphy acknowledges that the difference in the college and the newspaper's estimates does not mean The Saratogian's were inaccurate.
Our estimate was obtained by a reporter and photographer being in the thick of things. The newspaper never meant to suggest that you could see all the participants smoking pot, but it was definitely going on. And we are confident that the crowd at 4:20 was much more like 100 than 25.


Blogger gerard hawthorne said...

Are you serious? Still talking about a gathering of students smoking pot? Let's get over it! The 40th anniversary of Woodstock is coming this year and I for one will be there! I am sure there will be a few more smoking the bones there than what you're talking about. I sugjest that you look up the album called "The Pope Smokes Dope" and listen to that and tell me you don't love that generation.

May 5, 2009 at 3:57 PM 
Blogger Patrick said...

so... you're arguing about whether it was 4% or 1% of the school present?
pandemic proportions there, this is scarier than swine flu.

What are you doing bitching about a lack of an immediate prepared response?
Glotzbach was supposed to know you were writing a hitjob as you wrote it?

May 6, 2009 at 5:34 PM 
Blogger Tucker said...

Nice opening sentence. Do you read what you write? Who edits the editor?

May 7, 2009 at 6:52 AM 
Blogger Saratoga County District Attorney Jim Murphy said...

Regardless of the different accounts of the number of students participating in the 420"celebration", Barbara Lombardo is correct in her point that it is not only inappropriate to smoke pot, but also a crime, until the legislature decides to decriminalize the activity. Until then, law enforcement has an obligation to investigate and if evidence is gathered that leads to proof that a crime has been committed, to make an arrest. That would include gathering proof of identifying who is smoking, confiscating the substance so that the NYSP Crime Lab can perform an analysis of the substance and provide sworn testimony and a certified report as to the substance's weight and content in court, and provide proof of ingestion by blood or urine test and provide a report to the court as well. The possession of marijuana, in a small quantity, has been decriminalized in that the statute requires the judge and prosecutor to dismiss the charge on a first offense.

Decriminalization has not been done for the crime of smoking pot in public or for possessing a certain larger quantity that would be consistent with someone who is a dealer. It was admittedly difficult for police to patrol this gathering as Chief Moore, Campus Safety Director Dennis Conway and Editor Lombardo point out. Regardless, the meeting that involved Skidmore, police, campus safety and the school superintendent was important in that it addressed not only the 420 event, but the use of alcohol and other drugs on and off campus, underage drinking, student mentoring, community and college relations and an "autopsy" of what occurred that day. The focus of the group's energies then correctly shifted to promoting students and community members to make healthy choices, reinforcing positive behavior and the importance of students as role models, both on and off campus.

Turbulent as the reaction to the 420 event was, it did give us all an opportunity to learn from the process and address the issues identified in the article covering the event. The college reexamined and reaffirmed its alcohol and other drug policy. Law enforcement fleshed out the campus safety and police limitations due to our 4th Amendment Constitutional protections and limitations, in addition to resource issues. Most importantly, the event served as a catalyst for discussion about and preparing for the event, if it were to occur in the future, student’s engaging in risky behavior and identifying and increasing our community’s protective factors, something the Prevention Council, the Saratoga Springs City School district and the District Attorney’s Office has been working on for some time.
Skidmore is a wonderful resource that makes Saratoga special. The Saratogian newspaper provides news, opinions and insight into important events written by hard working journalists who strive for accurate, comprehensive coverage. The Saratoga Springs Police Department and Skidmore Campus Safety do an outstanding job despite budget, personnel and resource limitations in not just making arrests, but implementing best practices when responding to off campus parties and disturbances. I believe that what makes Saratoga Springs and in fact this county unique is our comprehensive response by identifying and accessing existing collaborations and strengthening them. The Partnership for Prevention is one such existing collaboration that has been working for more than 8 years on just this topic. If you are interested in joining me and roughly 45 other community organizations, not for profits, agencies, schools, departments and individuals to continue the discussion, I invite you to attend our next meeting by calling The Prevention Council at 584-1230 for more information.

We left the meeting with a sincere and genuine commitment and a pledge to work even harder, together, so that we all learn from our mistakes and change our protocols and policies to be better prepared. It is well worth living in a community for which we care so deeply that we fervently critique, comment, editorialize and argue. For that and for the sincerity of the effort by its residents, I am thankful.

May 8, 2009 at 12:20 AM 
Blogger shanghai dandy said...

Barb, you... you... human paraquat!

Jim, as a future lawyer, I admire the equitable and eloquent fundamental fairness of your post. With any luck, you won't have to worry about chasing BS like this around in the future.

Hopefully, we will live in a world soon where people like Barbara Lombardo are silenced and pot is legal to consume.

With "The One" running the show, anything seems possible.

Here's to progress!

May 8, 2009 at 8:39 PM 

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