This article is published on behalf of Samuel Wilson, its author.
At the start of this semester, Dean of Students Leonard Brown sent an all-student email detailing the administrative response to the recent student speak-out. Amongst his responses was a short aside regarding the establishment of “a task force of students, staff, and faculty… with the ultimate goal of recommending an implementation timeline for addressing safety concerns resulting from alcohol and drug use on campus.” The Dean also stated in his email that recommendations for this task force will be shared with the SMCM community at an unspecified date.
Records from the SMCM Board of Trustees and Student Affairs Committee indicate that in February the task force will review collected data from surveys and meet with the Maryland Collaborative, a network of schools that have agreed to collectively seek out solutions to harmful alcohol use amongst college students. The task force will take recommendations from the Maryland Collective, develop their own recommendations and provide the Dean of Students with a finalized list in May.
Following the authoritarian social policies pursued by the administration last semester, much of the community has felt a divide between students and administration. The administrative overreach that a task force could incite would undoubtedly be more divisive. Caitlin Henry, a student member of the task force, states that students were included in the force based on considerations of the growing rift between admin and students. “Students have different perspectives regarding authority,” says Henry. Including the voices of students in the task force will hopefully allow for a more bipartisan policy recommendation process. Henry hopes to be a representative of student voices as a member of the task force and hopes to find middle ground between the desires of the SMCM community and policy recommendations.
Overall, very little detail has been given regarding this new alcohol and drug task force, yet its very existence is reason for conversation. My hope is that the administrative side of the task force will not pursue prohibitionist or policing policies regarding substance use. As sovereign adults, we have the right to self-determination over our own bodies, a concept known as bodily autonomy. Many people regard it as a fundamental human right. In my own view, this right extends to what substances one chooses to consume and alter their consciousness with. It is not merely freedom of the body, but a freedom of consciousness and thought. College students engage in reckless behavior at much greater rates than the general population and have the responsibility to be especially careful and knowledgeable when choosing to use recreational substances. Our society has failed to instill these values. Instead it has demonized drugs for political reasons, all the while glorifying alcohol and nicotine dependence. We as a society have failed to educate our population on responsible substance use. Instead, we have let Pfizer, Shire and Purdue ravage our country in the form of Xanax, Adderall and OxyContin, and thrown millions into the corrupt private prison system for nonviolent drug offenses, all in the name of profit. My hope is that the administration will recognize that harm reduction and education policies are the most effective balance between public health and personal sovereignty. To put it quite frankly, a task force is a complete waste of school resources and will do nothing but foster a culture of secretive drinking and drug use. Sometimes the truly progressive way is the libertarian way.