Mo. House bill would impose university employee drug testing

The bill would enforce random and for-cause tests for UM system employees.

A bill proposed to the Missouri House of Representatives would result in random and reasonable-suspicion drug testing of professors, faculty, staff and other employees at public universities.

Chuck Gatschenberger, R-Lake St. Louis, proposed the bill but said there is not a large problem with drug use among university employees. The bill is designed to uphold to the same standards for taxpayers, as well as public employees.

"A lot of the constituents I have were shocked that the people that we give our tax dollars to are not held to the same standards as they are at their jobs," Gatschenberger said. "They have to have a pre-employment drug test, a random and a for-cause drug test."

The UM system Human Resources Department will consider a revised drug testing policy as part of a routine evaluation of university policies, UM system spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead said.

"Drug and alcohol policies are currently in place in the university's Collected Rules and Regulations, and any changes to that are best addressed and implemented by the university rather than being imposed by the state," Hollingshead said in an e-mail.

Under current system-wide policy, UM system employees are not required to be drug tested. But MU Health Care conducts new employee, transfer employee and for-cause drug testing, MU Health Care spokeswoman Mary Jenkins said. The MU Health Care system employees have been subjected to required drug testing since 2004.

According to the bill, public university employees would be subject to a three-step process. The first offense would result in suspension without pay for a week, the second offense would include participation in a substance abuse program and the third offense would result in termination.

For-cause drug testing could be used to determine the cause of accidents and rule out the possibility of illegal drug use, Gatschenberger said.

"If you are handling a fork lift or if you are driving and there is some accident, then that would trigger a for-cause drug test," Gatschenberger said. "Also the obvious things (such as) if your eyes are bloodshot or if you are slurring your words (would be cause for a drug test)."

John Galliher, sociology professor and peace studies director, said there is not just reasoning for faculty drug testing.

"It could be argued that those faculty conducting surgery should be drug tested," Galliher said in an e-mail. "If they make a mistake, it could easily cost a patient their life. On the other hand, it is probably harder to argue that an English professor could kill a student by making a drug-related error in discussing poetry."

Chemical engineering professor Galen Suppes said the bill is irrational.

"If it truly is worth the hassle and expense, then by all means perform the drug testing for faculty, administrators, curators, congressional representatives and staff, the governor and judges," Suppes said in an e-mail. "But there is no logical reason why faculty should be singled out for such testing."

Gatschenberger said the bill isn't meant to target faculty members' employment.

"The idea of the bill is not to terminate employees," Gatschenberger said. "(The purpose) is obvious, to see if there are some people using illegal drugs in faculty and staff."

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