Despite being a nationally recognized drug and alcohol corrective program, Back on Trac has elicited negative responses from students who have experienced the program at CSU.
Students are placed on the Back on Trac program after receiving drug or alcohol offenses that violate the Student Code of Conduct. According to Craig Chesson, director of Student Conduct Services, the office responsible for offering students the program, the program gives students a choice instead of suspension.
“It’s an opportunity for you to pursue your degree; otherwise you would have the suspension,” Chesson said.
While avoiding suspension remains the prerogative of students in the program, many felt they were treated harshly for minor violations.
“They treated us like alcoholics and druggies,” said Taylor Hale, a graduate of the program. “You are looked down upon and treated like you have a problem.”
Sophomore Allie O’Toole said she was put in the program because of a text from her phone that referenced marijuana and for being in a relationship with someone who had been arrested for drug use.
“It was literally just a text on my phone… I was guilty by association,” O’Toole said.
Because of this, O’Toole feels that the program was unjustified for both herself and for many of the other students in it.
“The majority of people I met in (Back on Trac) did not have issues,” O’Toole said. “A lot of the people in there didn’t deserve that.”
Once in the program, each student must pay a monthly fee of $100 in addition to daily breathalyzer tests and weekly urinalysis tests.
“It was impossible to scrounge up money for the (drug) tests,” said sophomore Brittney Carpenter. “(And) if you couldn’t pay for a test, it was considered a failed test and they accused you of doing drugs.”
Hale agreed that the tests set up an unfair standard and said it predispositioned participants to fail.
“If you are one minute late to a drug test, they accuse you and… don’t let you defend yourself,” Hale said. “There is no conversation, only accusations.”
For Carpenter and Hale, this magnified the belief that the Back on Trac counselors view all of the students as drug abusers and alcoholics.
In response to this, Back on Trac counselor Jim Weber, said that the counselors do not make this assumption and even if they did, the students should focus on themselves rather than what their counselors choose to believe.
“I understand why students might feel that way, but its not the premise we start from by any means,” Weber said. “Even if I think (the students) have a problem, it doesn’t matter what I think.”
Hale, Carpenter and O’Toole, all said the program was more time consuming than necessary.
“I had to plan my entire life around this program,” Carpenter said. “It took up all my free time. I had straight A’s before the program and then I started to struggle, ditch classes and not do work because the program took up so much of my time and effort.”
“It’s like having a full time job,” O’Toole said. “It makes it impossible to organize anything else in your life.”
“It just wore me out,” Hale said.
According to Weber, nothing is required of students after 5 p.m. He said he had difficulty understanding how the program could take up so much time.
Carpenter and O’Toole also stated that the program allows no time for social activities, which they both felt was a negative aspect.
“(The people at Back on Trac) think they’re doing something good, but I don’t see any good from not seeing your friends and people constantly telling you you have problems,” O’Toole said.
According to O’Toole, the time devoted to the program disintegrated the quality of college life.
“It ruined the CSU experience for me,” O’Toole said.
Weber attributed this to not being able to attend as many parties as one would like.
“When people say ‘the CSU experience’ and I ask them what that means it really boils down to partying and having fun,” Weber said. “In that sense I suppose we do cut in because we’re not allowing drinking or getting high.”
As Back on Trac members reached graduation for the program, there were some difficulties reaching the finish line.
When Hale was one hour away from her graduation ceremony, her clinician and case manager noticed that Hale’s eyes were slightly red and pulled her aside to ask her what drugs she was on. Hale was shocked at the implication.
“I would never be so stupid,” Hale said. “It was so inappropriate for her to do that.”
Weber explained that graduation can be delayed for many reasons and that there is no rigid time limit for when the program must be finished.
“The students can progress as quickly or as slowly as they want,” Weber said.
Weber is proud of the Back on Trac team and of all the resources the program has to offer.
“I would send my own children or grandchildren to this program,” Weber said. “That’s how much I am impressed with it.”
This contradicts the opinions of Hale, Carpenter and O’Toole.
“It is harmful to you emotionally,” O’Toole said. “A lot of them don’t realize how demeaning they are.”
Chesson explained why students might feel this way.
“Some students are angry because we are the first person who has held them accountable in their life,” Chesson said. “(But) I think the majority of the students get a lot out of it.”
Weber also feels that many students come to realize the benefits of the program. He emphasizes the care that the Back on Trac counselors have for the students involved.
“We want to keep students in school, and we want them to be able to get whatever skills, support or tools they need to be able to graduate and be successful,” Weber said.
While the program is supposed to help students be successful post-graduation, that is not always the case.
According to Carpenter, having Back on Trac on her record prevented her from getting jobs.
“This experience is still on university record. I can’t get jobs now because of it. I tried to get a job mentoring at risk youth in Fort Collins but I couldn’t because of my record,” Carpenter said.
Collegian City Beat Reporter Caitlin Curley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.