The public debate practicum class held a forum to discuss the merits of the one-strike drug policy on campus yesterday, Nov. 17.
The debate was introduced by moderator Thomas Ella, who also spoke with Doug Rissing in favor of keeping the policy, followed by introductory arguments by Jonathan Ross and Andrew Lowdon, who spoke against it. The four are students in a public debate practicum class.
Closing statements were followed by a question-and-answer portion with the audience.
“Eliminating the policy demonstrates an acceptance of illegal drugs,” Rissing argued. According to Rissing, the one-strike policy “defines our school and makes it different from other schools.”
Lowdon argued against the policy by comparing underage alcohol usage to drug usage.
“Underage alcohol use is illegal and you can’t get kicked out for that,” Lowdon said.
Ross and Lowdon were in favor of a case-by-case policy for drugs. This means each drug case would be evaluated and judged based on the person and the situation, so as not to punish marijuana users as severely as hardcore drug users. They cited James Madison University as an example of a school that has a three-strike policy.
They argued that the one-strike policy creates a culture of fear for drug users. Those who are addicted to drugs cannot seek help for fear of being caught and punished. They argued that eliminating down the one-strike policy would help addicts seek help.
An audience member and former drug addict reaffirmed the importance of this culture of fear.
Ella argued against this, saying the University will help people who are addicted to drugs seek fair treatment if they come forward.
“If you seek help, university health services will help you. They won’t bust you for coming to get help,” Ella said.
Ella also argued the one-strike policy prepares students for the real world. However, Ross said the real world is not as extreme as the one-strike policy.
“With marijuana, you get a misdemeanor,” Ross said. “People do make mistakes and we should take the mistakes into account.”
The debaters arguing for the policy said that marijuana can lead to chemical addiction. They also asked why the University should create what they said would be a friendlier atmosphere for drug users.
“In comparison to other schools, ours is not that strict,” Ella argued.
He cited Virginia Tech as an example of another university that has a zero-tolerance policy and Christopher Newport University as an example of a zero alcohol violation school. Ella also noted some Christian universities don’t even allow tobacco on campus.
In the closing statements, Lowdon argued that they were not proposing an environment where people can openly smoke down campus walk.
“But there is a difference between drugs and alcohol,” Lowdon said.
“It’s irrelevant to compare [drugs] to alcohol,” Ella argued. He and Rissing said alcohol becomes legal at a certain age, while drugs are always illegal.