Students Spread Drug Policy Petition


Members of Students for Sensible Drug Policy posing in Harrisburg at the Lobby Day rally in 2013. SSDP is currently organizing a petition at Dickinson

Last semester, Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) began circulating a petition that called attention to Dickinson’s current Community Standards and requested change in regards to the policies on drugs and alcohol.

“The purpose of the petition is to call upon the administration to work with the students to create a more transparent, safe and clear drug and alcohol policy,” said Jake Agliata ’14, SSDP president.

The circulated petition calls for the creation of a full medical amnesty policy, elimination of complicity charges and the extension of the coverage from only alcohol to other substances as well.

The College’s current amnesty policy covers only the caller, not the person requiring help. According to members of SSDP, this policy serves as a complication in situations when a student is in need of medical assistance but does not want to be punished for his or her activities. Additionally, with the current policy, a student who is in the presence of illegal substances but is not partaking in the activity can also receive punishment through association. With the new policy suggested by SSDP, the student in need would be able to get the necessary help and not worry about being severely punished, those in the vicinity would not be sanctioned and the policy would be extended to cover drugs as well as alcohol.

“Currently, the misconduct process is based off of the community standards instead of an actual drug policy,” said Agliata. “We believe the community standards are a set of vague, unclear guidelines that fail to communicate to students what the exact consequences of their actions are.”

As an example, Agliata cited the fact that the community standards lists probation and stayed suspension as a consequence of student misconduct, but argues that it does not clearly communicate which offenses will lead to a specific punishment.

“Needless to say I disagree with the statement [that the conduct system fails students,]” said Joyce Bylander, Vice President of Student Development. “The community standards guidelines are clear about what constitutes a violation of the standards. There are ranges of sanctions that give hearing officers and panels some flexibility to try to achieve the behavioral change we are seeking.”

“We want to establish a policy that is accessible and understandable to students, and lets them know what the consequences of violating different rules will be,” said Abigail Preston ’16.

SSDP also hopes that if the petition is successful, the administration will be more lenient on minor drug offenses, such as the possession of a small amount of marijuana, and reserve more severe punishments to those whose actions are more serious.

“Each case is different and each student’s conduct record is different. The particulars of each case provide us with flexibility when applying consequences. An alternative is a system that has mandatory sentencing regardless of circumstance. Just to clarify, I don’t believe in mandatory consequences. It sounds fine in the abstract but then everyone is treated exactly the same regardless of any real difference in the situation,” explained Bylander. 

“We aren’t trying to break laws, we just don’t want people’s recreational practices to interfere with their mental health and ability to fully benefit from Dickinson’s education,” said Talya Auger ’16.

SSDP plans to continue circulating the petition. Once enough signatures have been collected, they intend to present their modifications to the administration to indicate the level of concern students on campus have about this issue. As of printing, 450 signatures have been collected, many of which were accumulated in the last month of the Fall 2013 semester. The organization aims to reach 1000 signatures by Spring Break.

“We believe that if the administration truly wants students to know what is expected of them, there should be a clearly defined drug policy that outlines offenses and sanctions,” said Agliata.