A new campus organization is looking to loosen University regulations against on-campus drug use.
Launched last Friday, Yale Students for Sensible Drug Policy is a branch of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy, an international organization dedicated to fighting against “counterproductive Drug War policies,” according to the group’s website. At Yale, members will focus on clarifying University sanctions for drug use and ensuring that drug-related emergencies are treated as medical concerns, not disciplinary issues. Currently, University policy states that Yale College will not discipline students seeking help for alcohol-related medical emergencies — an approach known as the “Good Samaritan Policy.” Instead, students treated for alcohol incidents are required to participate in either educational programming or health counseling.
Yale SSDP President Clement Dupuy ’17 said the chapter will concentrate the bulk of its efforts on extending this policy to drugs as well. Though Dupuy said it has not yet been decided which specific drugs would be included, he noted that extending the policy to include drugs would decrease the risks associated with overdosing, as students would be encouraged to seek help without fear of repercussions.
“The overall aim in terms of values is to change the drug policies on Yale’s campus to be less focused on unequivocal punitive measures and more on dealing with this as a health problem rather than a disciplinary problem,” said Yale SSDP Vice President Annelisa Leinbach ’16, a staff photographer and former illustrations editor for the News.
Two years ago, Yale received a “C” grade for its drug and alcohol policies in a “Campus Drug and Alcohol Gradebook” released by the international SSDP group. The analysis was based on the written drug and alcohol policies of the top 300 colleges as ranked by Forbes Magazine in 2013.
That year, then-SSDP Outreach Coordinator Devon Tackels told the News that the organization found a lack of “clear sanctions for possible violations” of drug and alcohol policies as well as a limited number of medical amnesty policies at Yale. All other Ivy League institutions received a grade of “B.”
Yale introduced its current version of the alcohol medical emergency policy in 2014. According to Lincoln Swaine-Moore ’17, a member of SSDP’s new Yale chapter, while the policy signals progress with regards to Yale’s approach to alcohol, changes still need to be made on the topic of drugs.
“My impression is that Yale has made some really good first steps with regard to alcohol policy, but according to SSDP, Yale is the only Ivy rated a ‘C’ while all the others are ‘B,’ and I think it’s something we should definitely work to fix,” he said. “It says something about how Yale might have farther to go in its drug policies, particularly with amnesty.”
With only three current members, the group has yet to hold its first official meeting. Dupuy said the club is currently trying to establish recruitment dates as well as outline clear objectives for the current academic year. He added that the group has already been in discussion with the Yale chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, noting that current national enforcement of drug policies is disproportionately targeted against disadvantaged ethnic minorities.
Dupuy said one initiative the group will focus on is implementing “law enforcement assisted diversion,” a program pioneered in Seattle. According to the program’s website, LEAD puts low-level drug and prostitution offenders in contact with social workers who provide offenders with job training, food and rehabilitation rather than having them face prosecution and time in jail.
“Now that we’re in this zone where these issues of racial discrimination are getting the attention they deserve, we can call attention to the tools being used to perpetuate these disparities,” Dupuy said. He added that many more people are now questioning not only whether banning drugs is the best way to stop their use, but also whether notions of drugs’ harmfulness are exaggerated.
Brown University also has its own chapter of SSDP, which was established in 2002. Brown SSDP President Diego Arene-Morley said her chapter has been formally included in the administration’s drug and alcohol policy-making process, with group members serving on the university’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Committee. The University of Pennsylvania is the only other Ivy League school that has a chapter of SSDP.
In 2013, when asked about the SSDP gradebook, University Spokesman Tom Conroy told the News that SSDP is not an organization the University relies on when formulating its policies. Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd, who oversees Yale’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Harm Reduction Initiative, could not be reached for comment.
Dupuy said he thinks that once students are made more aware of his group’s suggested policy changes, they will rally behind the cause.
“A lot of students don’t know that Yale has no drug amnesty policy,” he said. “I think once they hear [our] intuition, there will be student consensus that this will be a policy that should be implemented.”
The first chapter of SSDP was founded in 1998 by a group of students from George Washington University and the Rochester Institute of Technology.