Up in smoke

By JOHN ZORABEDIAN  |  January 25, 2006

The drug war goes to college
Daigle and the SSDP favor policies that offer education and treatment for non-violent drug and alcohol offenses. Given a choice, Daigle would choose the model applied at Brown University. “They’re dealing with very similar circumstances,” at both schools, he says. “It’s students who are all essentially the same age, getting into the same things, drugs and alcohol. I feel like there is another way of going about this, which would be more towards the model of Brown, where you’re not busting students.”

Tom Angell, SSDP’s national campaign director, says the lesson of the war on drugs is that strict laws and increased enforcement only guarantee more arrests, not fewer users. The problem of student drug and alcohol use is cultural, Daigle and Angell say, and no amount of law enforcement can stop it.

In fact, much of the excesses of collegiate drinking can be traced to American societal norms in which young people — who are unrealistically expected to entirely shun alcohol until they are 21 — are abruptly cast into an environment with considerable personal freedom and a relative lack of supervision. Daigle says stricter penalties haven’t reduced the number of students engaging in under-age drinking or drug use at URI. “The fact is, nothing has changed, there’s no less partying going on,” he says. “It’s just the way that we’ve dealt with it.”
“This is a college environment,” says Terry. “You’re not going to stop it.”

Farther north, in Providence, Brown’s culture of respect for student freedoms and individual responsibility, along with its more flexible attitude toward student discipline, seems likely to endure, the flap over Sex Power God notwithstanding. Those URI students craving a more liberal approach to drugs and alcohol on their campus, meanwhile, seem like victims of their environment.


Email the author:

John Zorabedian:john.zorabedian@gmail.com

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