Friday, April 17, 2009

CU Boulder's silly administration tries to suppress 4-20 events

What glorious weather!
It is 70 degrees, clear and sunny this afternoon in Silver Spring, MD!
What a TGIF!
Imagine what it is like on the quads and fields of your alma mater? Frisbees thrown, softballs, footballs, music, drumming, hanging out, stereos blaring....

According to Robin Williams, "Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!'"

On Monday afternoon, cannabis activists will be celebrating 4-20.
This has been a sore point at alcohol-soaked University of Colorado at Boulder. For years the university administration has tried to repress 4-20. One year they turned the water sprinklers on their students. They attempt to intimidate the students with a massive show of police. They have taken photographs of students with pipes and joints and posted them on the Internet.

Here is the April 15 announcement from the university administration on this year's 4-20 event:

"On April 20, 2009, we hope that you will choose not to participate in unlawful activity that debases the reputation of [their] University and degree, and will encourage [their] fellow Buffs to act with pride and remember who they really are -- part of a dynamic environment of teaching, research, learning, and service, nationally recognized for its unique and stellar academic programs, outstanding faculty, and proud students and alumni."

But this is a university that embraces drunken excess with a veneer of concern that would be hysterical were the consequences not so often tragic.

The folks at SAFER are focusing their keen eye on University Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Philip P. DiStefano

I have a long connection with the University of Colorado at Boulder as I note in my letter to Chancellor DiStefano, below:

Dear Chancellor DiStefano,
For nine years during the 1990s, I was a participant at CU Boulder's distinguished Conference on World Affairs, and developed a deep affection for CU Boulder, and an admiration for the students, faculty and administration.

One spring, while I was lecturing at a sociology class about substance abuse policy, a student from abroad said her classmates were "obsessed" with getting drunk. I was shocked at that word choice. I asked the class for a show of hands: "How many of you would agree that your classmates are obsessed with getting drunk?" Almost every student raised his or her hand.

On another occasion I went to a party at a student house on the Hill after the Thursday conference dinner. Students brought in cases of liquor, wine and beer sufficient for a month of parties in most circles. Several students held magnums of wine as "their drink" the way I held a bottle of beer! CU has had a serious alcohol problem for many years. I did not see evidence of any comparable problem with marijuana or other illegal drugs.

Your effort to stop the 4-20 events is ridiculous. The suggestion that this event will tarnish the CU reputation is preposterously naive. It would appear that you have no sense of the breadth of juvenile antics on American university campuses. One would think you never attended a football game at CU, but that is inconceivable. Apparently you have never heard of the "Hash Bash" at the University of Michigan or "Hash Wednesday" at the University of Illinois. No one with any sense judges those universities -- their students, their faculty or their administrations -- on the basis of such antics.

Marijuana policy is an important political question in the United States. Rallies and festivals by students that celebrate the use of marijuana may be inarticulate, naive, and politically counterproductive, but they are legitimate political speech. It is beyond foolish to try to suppress such events; for state officials, it violates the spirit if not the letter of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and violates the spirit of a great university.

Your appropriate role would be to ask university health educators to set up a couple of tables to provide information about how to get counseling for alcohol and other substance abuse. Distribute the phone number for a hotline for confidential help, assuming CU Boulder has such a basic public health intervention.

Sincerely yours,
Eric E. Sterling, J.D.
The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
8730 Georgia Avenue, Suite 400
Silver Spring, MD 20910

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