After cocaine: false positives and false excuses

Demanding a response from YUSU, the police and the University.

In the immediate aftermath of the last edition of Nouse, a third year music student proved to be representative of the apathy that greeted the cocaine story. “Cocaine on campus? That’s not news, that’s obvious”. Furthermore, the subsequent web story was met with frankly narrow-minded criticisms of the possibilities of false positives and misguided ethical criticism of control samples.

Now, I think a serious step back needs to be taken with regard to some of the reactions to this story. I find it difficult to believe that York’s campus population was so unsurprised with the results that they either didn’t stop to consider the findings, or instead diverted their attention to attempts at picking holes in the story with claims of Cetirizine hydrochloride, which is used in some antihistamines, providing false positives.

If we take logic as prevalent instead of unfounded accusation, it stands to reason that very few people take their hay fever medicine via the use of a toilet cistern. If, on the off chance they do take their allergy relief “on the sly”, I very much doubt that these mentalists will have done so across 24 different locations on campus.

Furthermore, the nature of the swabs is that they don’t just show whether a location is positive or not – they give some clue about the frequency of cocaine usage in that location. For example, the strongest sample found in the investigation was discovered in the toilets of the Music Department – home to our (now understandably) unimpressed third year student.

More significantly, the swab taken in Heslington Hall showed two distinct lines. This is certainly not standard fare for hay fever medicine, unless the aforementioned sufferers feel the need to crush up their tablets and snort them.

So, with all unfounded claims of false positives aside – it is essential to realise the severity of the situation uncovered by the Nouse investigation. I refuse to believe that the culture of nonchalance toward drug use in our society has come so far that when positive tests for cocaine are found in the University of York’s administrative buildings, people barely bat an eyelid. The cocaine investigation at the University was considered significant enough by the York Press to warrant their front page, and rightly so. It’s a big deal.

All things considered, I sincerely hope that the currently ongoing “police investigation” regarding the findings is a serious one and not just a kneejerk reaction from a press office, intended to give the impression that North Yorkshire Police are paying attention to the situation.

Information following a meeting between the police and Anne-Marie Canning, YUSU President, suggests that law enforcement are already on their way to the Nouse office to question our source for the verified cocaine test. When the police arrive, I’ll happily redirect them to Heslington Hall.


  1. The York Press aren’t exactly known for their high standards. It was their front page a couple of month ago when “university official Grace Fletcher-Hackworth” (!) was no-confidenced.

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  2. So then…Where did we get with this? What was the result of the University’s investigation about traces being found in Hes Hall?

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  3. With regard to the Music Department having the highest levels of cocaine – ponder this. The music department toilets, logically enough, are situated quite centrally, next to the Jack Lyons concert hall. As everybody knows, musicians take to drugs like ducks to water; this includes classical musicians. Given that the Jack Lyons hosts a regular concert series given by professional musicians, surely it is to be expected that at least a few of these will partake in the occasional warm-up/pre-concert/mid-concert/after-concert/after-after-concert ‘pick-me-up?’ In which case perhaps the blame can be somewhat diverted from those crazy University of York early music scholars.

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