This article was updated on Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 9:59 p.m. to provide more context on this developing story.
Rumors and reports of rohypnol (“roofies”) being deliberately slipped into alcoholic drinks at parties have circulated around campus over the past two weeks, prompting concern about safety at social gatherings. Obstacles to obtaining evidence that can confirm or deny the alleged reports have left the community at a loss of how to gauge the drug’s potential presence on campus. Potential victims have also been left without a full understanding of crimes that may have been committed against them.
An anonymous source, hereinafter referred to as Student A, came forward to The Student reporting her experience at a campus party on the night of Friday, Sept. 10, which led her to believe she had been roofied. Student A does not remember anything from the night, except that she had consumed four standard drinks with friends and then woke up in the hospital. Friends who had been with Student A that night told her that she had attended a party at Jenkins Dormitory and had a drink from a Red Solo cup while there.
“Then like 30 minutes later, I couldn’t stand or do anything. So then, someone took me back to my room. And then I puked in my bed and my roommates called ACEMS,” Student A said, relaying what happened based on the accounts of her friends.
Student A was escorted in an ambulance to Cooley Dickinson Hospital where her blood was drawn and tested for glucose levels, but a toxicology screening — which would identify definitively whether roofies were in her system — was not issued. According to a source familiar with the case, toxicology tests are not normally issued in alcohol-related incidents at Cooley Dickinson due to the high volume of college students who come in with a form of alcohol poisoning.
After the incident, Student A filed a report with the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) to make the college aware of the potential presence of roofies on campus but was disappointed with the office’s response.
“I was like, ‘Hey, this is something that’s happening,’ because I also know that it wasn’t only me because there’s a lot of other girls,” Student A said.
The OSA responded by setting up a meeting for early October — later than Student A had wanted due to the nature of the incident — to discuss Student A’s report but also address her violation of the Student Code of Conduct by engaging in underaged drinking.
"Student Affairs emailed me [after I submitted the OSA form], and they said that they would meet with," Student A recounted. "Then they said that they couldn't meet with me until Oct. 1, and I was like, 'Well that's a little late,' but I said OK. And then they sent me another email that was like, 'We really just want to talk about the fact that you were drinking and that breaks the Student Code of Conduct.' And I was like, 'Well, we can talk about that also.'"
After Student A was left dissatisfied with OSA’s response to her report, she received a call from an Amherst College Police Department (ACPD) officer who, according to Student A, said that “ACPD recognizes that the college is not really doing a lot so they’re doing their own little investigation. So he [the ACPD officer] was talking to all the girls who have been reporting this.”
According to Chief of Police John Carter, “we [ACPD officers] are following up on information we have received and will send a community update when we have more information to share. We continue to strongly encourage students to share information with us so that we can understand the situation as fully as possible.”
Despite ACPD’s independent investigation, Student A noted that the department has come up short in verifying the reports due to the under usage of toxicology screenings.
“The hospital hasn’t been doing tox[icology] screenings as much anymore even when it’s requested, which they’re [ACPD] not happy about.” Without a toxicology report, Student A continued, “I maybe was drugged or you could just say I was super super drunk.”
The response across campus has, in many ways, mirrored this sentiment of unease and uncertainty. A Sept. 17 Instagram post by the Amherst Muckrake, the college’s satirical publication, publicized the rumors around roofies that had been developing. The Muckrake wrote in the post’s comment section: “We know we’re funny, but this is not a joke: Multiple calls this weekend suggest that there is at least one individual on this campus using date rape drugs to prey on students.”
Soon after this post was released, students were left wondering how to gauge the safety of Amherst’s social scene.
Cece Hong ’22, the director of operations of Amherst College Emergency Medical Services (ACEMS), made a statement in the campus-wide GroupMe to address safety concerns.
“Let us all try to refrain from accepting random drinks at random parties,” Hong suggested. But she still acknowledged the lack of available knowledge on the roofie reports: “While we aren’t completely sure what is going on … we want to let you all know that we are a resource for you all,” Hong wrote.
When asked about details for the cases, Hong cited medical privacy standards as preventing them from divulging any information publicly. Hong also emphasized that, because of these standards of confidentiality, students are not at risk of any penalty if they contact ACEMS.
“You don’t get in trouble when you call for ACEMS,” Hong said. “Even if it’s an alcohol- or drug- related call, you’re not going to get in trouble because you call us. We’re here to give medical care, and that takes priority over the fact you were drinking, for example. … Everyone in that area gets medical amnesty. It’s confidential, and we want students to call us knowing that they’re protected.”
Following the eruption of discussion about roofies among students, ACPD, together with Dean of Students Liz Agosto and Title IX Coordinator Laurie Frankl, sent a community-wide email that echoed similar sentiments of uncertainty: “The college has not received information confirming rohypnol exposure in students, nor has the college received reports of drug-facilitated sexual assaults related to these rumors. We have very limited information and urge the community to share with us anything that you know.”
The rumors and reports of roofie usage come at the same time as protests over sexual assault at UMass Amherst. According to some of the protestors, who gathered outside the UMass Theta Chi fraternity on Sept. 19 in solidarity with those who had alleged sexual assault by fraternity brothers, roofie usage is not uncommon at UMass.
“I’ve also been roofied, and I know a lot of other girls here who have been, so I think that we all have to fight for each other,” said UMass senior Shivali Mashar to the Daily Collegian. “I’m lucky because I woke up in my own bed, but not every girl was that lucky. I think that’s what drives a lot of victims, is that they’ve dealt with this experience and they’re strong enough to move past it and fight.”
Hundreds of students gathered for a second protest on Sept. 20, where attendees took turns sharing their experiences with and opinions of the university’s culture around parties and sexual respect. A number of them, mostly women, recounted their experiences of sexual assault and harassment, and called for a systemic shift in the university’s approach to such issues.
The rise in cases of sexual assault at UMass and alleged reports of roofying at Amherst have served as a reminder for students like Student A about the threat of sexual misconduct on college campuses.
Student A said, “It’s weird to think that it does happen here. It’s a small school, everyone kind of knows everyone in the grade, so I just figured that wouldn’t be a thing, but I’ve definitely been more careful with drinks and such.”