by Max Brantley
Remember the item earlier this week about whether the University of Arkansas had or had not made campus punishment for marijuana the same as that for alcohol violations? (Bottom line was that, despite notices that the rules had been equalized, top-level administrators put the kibosh on easing pot penalties.)
Those who backed the rule change aren't happy about it. Their release is on the jump. There will be a protest. That's what college is for, right? (And drinking beer and smoking pot.)
By way of proof that the deal was done, then reversed, students have distributed:
1) The new campus guidelines, now moot.
U. of Arkansas Officials Adopt and Release New Guidelines Equalizing Marijuana and Alcohol Sanctions, Then Repeal Them Without Explanation Following Media Exposure
Students call on Chancellor to explain his decision to overstep other administrators who approved new guidelines, and why UA prefers students use alcohol — a substance that contributes to overdose deaths, date rapes, and violence — instead a substance that does not: MARIJUANA
Students to protest in front of Chancellor Dave Gearhart's office on FRIDAY, Sep. 3rd at 12 p.m. (see below for details)
** PHOTO OPPORTUNITY — Students will have signs and hold a brief news conference **
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas officials have repealed new guidelines that equalized penalties for student alcohol and marijuana use. The guidelines were adopted last week by the RazorCat Board, a rule-making group consisting of the dean of students, the associate dean for student life, and other administrators, in response to a successful student referendum. (See attachment for the newly approved university guidelines.)
The Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) referendum was approved by 67 percent of student voters last spring, and called for equalization of university penalties for marijuana and alcohol as a means of curbing levels of dangerous drinking. Students have argued that current penalties, which are harsher for marijuana, steer students toward drinking and away from using a less harmful substance.
"The students have spoken and so have the officials on the RazorCat Board," said UA student Stephen Duke, president of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) chapter at UA and a spokesman for the SAFER campaign. "Based on our discussions with school officials, the University's decision to overturn the new guidelines is based purely on protecting the school's image and not on protecting student safety and well-being."
During and following the board meeting, Associate Dean Kenner and Dean of Students Daniel Pugh made it clear that the University does not agree that marijuana is safer than alcohol, and that its decision is based largely on its fear of appearing in a negative light.
In response, students will be holding a protest and brief news conference Friday, Sep. 3, at 12 p.m. in front of Chancellor Dave Gearhart's office. At the event, students will call on the chancellor to explain the decision to overturn the RazorCat Board-approved guidelines, as well as the school's position that marijuana is NOT safer than alcohol, thus should be punished more harshly.
On Tuesday, the University distributed a media advisory announcing that its guidelines for marijuana and alcohol sanctions would not be changed, suggesting the students had erred in suggesting that they would.
Yet, at the board's meeting last week, board chair and Associate Dean for Student Life Aisha Kenner said:
"Essentially what we've done is we've equalized the alcohol and the drug violations to be more reflective of the University of Arkansas policy and process. I think that we would be remiss in doing nothing...
"That information is going to go out to the students in the residence halls, and I believe move in starts tomorrow. Maybe? So, we want to make sure that we get that information out...
"Taking into consideration there's an increase in enrollment... We think that the judicial cases are probably going to go up this year, and we want to make sure that we've gotten the information out to the students so that they can at least make an informed decision."
WHAT: Protest and brief news conference regarding the University's overturning of newly approved marijuana-alcohol equalization guidelines
WHEN: Friday, September 3, 12 p.m.
WHERE: On W. Maple Street in front 425 Administration Building (which houses Chancellor Dave Gearhart's office, University of Arkansas campus
WHO: UA students
UA chapters of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)