High Time for Policy Discussion

Editorial cartoon by Derek Zimmermann
Editorial cartoon by Derek Zimmermann
Editorial cartoon by Derek Zimmermann
Editorial cartoon by Derek Zimmermann

Drug policy has been an ongoing issue on the SUNY New Paltz campus for years and we think that if open lines of communication between students and the administration can be maintained, change can come eventually.

We go away to school to learn. But college is not just a place to learn from teachers and write reports. For many, college is a chance to actually find themselves in a place away from the shelter of family and familiarity to create new memories and have new experiences with people that you may never have met if you stayed home for school.

Unfortunately, part of creating these new experiences is making mistakes and learning from them. Everyone makes mistakes. People who have experimented with drugs in the past have gone on to do great things (see: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Halle Berry). The current policy does not allow students to make mistakes without instantly regretting them, rather than giving them a chance to learn.

Now let’s make one thing perfectly clear: we do not advocate drug use, but we do support a standard across the board for all SUNY schools as far as dealing with these types of indiscretions. It is not right to expect students to learn in an environment where one or two mistakes could end up defining an entire college experience with fear and paranoia.

As it stands now, most SUNY schools run on a three-strike policy that ends in expulsion. At SUNY New Paltz, the policy allows students only two strikes. We currently go to a school that will expel you after two infringements on its drug policy, meanwhile we reside in a state that has decriminalized most instances of marijuana possession beneath a certain amount.

Interim President Donald Christian has already said that no changes will be made while he is in office. But maybe if NORML/SSDP continue their campaigning, then the next president may take a different stance on the issue. As we’ve said before, the drug policy has been a hot button issue on campus for some time but we are seeing NORML/SSDP, the main organizations behind drug policy reform on campus, remaining vigilant and finding new and possibly more effective ways to reach out to the campus community at large.

We understand that our school has had a reputation in the past and that a strict drug policy may have been instated to combat that. We are asking that SUNY New Paltz brings their policy to a level that is congruent with the rest of the SUNY system and is consistent with New York state law concerning the issue.

Past campaigns have been marred by a failure to connect to the whole of the student body but we think providing an open forum for students to voice their opinions is the first step in establishing a serious method of discourse with the administration. We are all for students taking strides to voice their concerns with the administration that do not come off as immature or ill conceived.

That being said, it should be noted that drug reform is an uphill battle and we expect this level of professionalism to continue or else this campaign is doomed. Students are already seen as a fringe group in the New Paltz community at large. When one student does something stupid, it reflects on us all. At the same time, when one student does something great, it reflects on us at well.

The New Paltz Oracle hopes that students continue to make their voices heard about any issue that bothers them and that the administration will be willing to hear them out. The road to reasonable drug reform is a two way street wrought with rough patches and pitfalls, but it can be a lead to success if tempered with respect.