In an interview with student press today, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and university spokeswoman Julie Bataille addressed a number of lingering questions surrounding Saturday’s drug lab incident in Harbin Hall.
When asked about the disciplinary status of John Romano (COL ’14) and Charles Smith (SFS ’14) – the residents of Room 926, where a DMT lab was found early Saturday morning – Olson declined to comment in depth on the ongoing investigation by the Office of Student Conduct, citing confidentiality concerns.
At an arraignment today at U.S. District Court of D.C., Romano was released from custody and relieved of all charges. Smith and campus visitor Joseph Perrone face federal charges of \”conspiracy to manufacture\” and \”possession with intent to distribute\” the drug DMT and are being held without bond.
“The students are not on campus at this time . We take matters like this very seriously,” Olson said.
Olson made clear that disciplinary action may be taken against any students found to have been collaborating with the suspects.
“We are certainly trying to get as full of an understanding of this situation as we can,” Olson said.
Officials from various emergency response teams searched Harbin on Saturday to clear the residence hall of hazardous and illicit materials. When asked about repercussions for any students found to be in possession of contraband items or other drugs, Olson said consequences could be in store.
“I would not rule that out. When there are legitimate reasons to search a residence hall space . and illegal drugs are found, that can lead to Student Conduct action,” Olson said.
Olson also confirmed earlier reports by The Hoya that the initial triggering of Harbin fire alarms to alert students of the evacuation failed. According to Olson, the residence hall’s alarms underwent a routine inspection just last week and passed fire safety standards along with other on-campus buildings. Though the alarms did not sound at first, Olson said internal mechanisms succeeded in alerting Department of Public Safety and Office of Residence Life staff, who evacuated Harbin residents around 6 a.m.
“We certainly were concerned about [the fire alarms failing to sound]. We’ve had technicians looking at it but they have assured us it was a one-time problem,” Olson said. Bataille confirmed that the alarm system in Harbin passed an inspection by the D.C. Fire Marshals today.
Acknowledging Saturday’s emergency response was a “complex situation,” Olson said he felt the university’s reaction demonstrated coordination among involved parties, even as many Harbin residents and other students voiced concerns on Saturday over effective communication by the university. Olson’s first email communicating with Harbin residents, many of whom were evacuated without time to grab their laptops or personal belongings, was delivered at 1:31 p.m., over seven hours after the first evacuation of the freshman dorm. The greater student body was forwarded the same message by Olson shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday, as Hazmat, MPD and Drug Enforcement Administration teams worked to respond.
“We believed that the focus and the central need was to work with Harbin residents,” Olson said. Bataille added, “Immediate safety concerns were to make sure that Harbin got evacuated.”
Neither the HOYAlert system – the university’s emergency notification system – nor the Campus Alert System – a series of steam whistles that signal to the university community to take shelter when activated – were utilized by the university on Saturday. Olson said that he and other officials were not concerned about the threat to wider on- and off-campus areas.
“It was clear to us from all the guidance we were getting that there was not a threat to the broader community. There was not a safety risk to the broader community,” Olson said. According to Olson, road closures in the area Saturday morning were unrelated to the discovery of the clandestine drug lab, but instead were due to a 10-mile road race occurring on Sunday.
As national and local media outlets began to pick up on reports of an undercover drug lab at Georgetown, the university reported to news media that the discovery was an \”alleged\” methamphetamine or drug lab; news outlets, however, later narrowed down the drug in question to meth. Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Hugh Carew confirmed early Saturday afternoon that the lab was intended for manufacturing an illegal hallucinogenic drug called Dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
Olson closed the meeting by commenting on the university’s interaction with the families of the suspects. \”The university looks to support and communicate with family members in difficult situations such as this,\” he said.