Dear Dr. Chiricho:
We, the members of the Students for a Democratic Society, as well as we, the majority of the students of UMW, are concerned about the university’s one-strike drug policy. We recognize this as a complex issue with multiple sides, but we feel that, after weighing all the factors, it’s time to consider a change. In forming this opinion, we conducted original research. The methodology, findings, and analysis of this research can be viewed at http://students.umw.edu/~arohde/research/results.doc .
Though at one time students may have been in support of the one-strike policy, our recent findings indicate that this is no longer the case. In fact, our results showed almost a two-to-one majority wanted to change to the more lenient multiple-strike policy that most other universities use. This significant proportion combined with the number of people we sampled is statistically sufficient to conclude with 99% certainty that most students want to replace the current drug policy with a more lenient one.
Perhaps some of the least forgiving among us may take the attitude that any punishment is justified to those who knowingly break rules. Even if we look at the consequences of this policy on everybody but those who could get expelled, the net effect is still negative. Of the students who have not tried any drugs on campus, 56% that we sampled still do want to change the campus policy. Even considering the great numbers that the students in favor of change have, we believe a stronger investment in the issue exists. Either due to compassion, concern for their friends who do try drugs, or whatever other reason, the one-strike policy is not making students happy.
Though most students still feel it’s best to keep the students who have tried drugs on campus, might the faculty feel differently? Negative stereotypes persist about the work ethic and intelligence of those who use marijuana, though no studies have validated the claim that marijuana decreases intelligence. We also couldn’t find any research that established marijuana had a causal relationship with GPA. Moreover, even if there is such a relationship, it only applies to drug-users, not to people who have tried a drug just once.
That is a fundamental issue in our current policy, that it can potentially expel students who have tried a drug just once. Nearly twenty-one percent tried an illegal drug on campus, is there anybody out there who truly believes twenty-one percent of the students who make this community are so destructive or so valueless that they should be expelled? One or two experimentations with a drug like marijuana has virtually no long-term effect. A multi-strike policy would ensure that nobody will get expelled for their first experimentation and resolve the 21% dilemma.
Finally, if we look at the effect of expelling these students on society as a whole, we think it’s intuitively apparent that a college graduate that smokes pot will contribute more than a person who was expelled before finishing college and smokes pot. It is for all these reasons, ethical, democratic, and pragmatic, that we feel that relaxing the one-strike policy is the best option. We believe that the students removed, the students at large, the school as a whole, and society as a whole all stand to gain from updating the drug policy.
If you have any doubt about the methodology or results then we suggest that you ensure its accuracy by putting the policy up to a vote by the full student body. This could be done relatively easily through the internet. Since almost all students have used the internet for housing contracts, registering for courses, Blackboard, and searching for articles, there is little doubt that this inexpensive and quick method of voting would be accessible to all students.
Alex Rohde is a freshman member of Students for a Democratic Society.