Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Political success: perseverance and outreach

The University of Maryland at College Park has adopted a "Good Samaritan" policy. In order to encourage students to call for emergency help when a student has passed out or otherwise may be endangered by drugs or alcohol, the policy removes the threat of punishment. This is a triumph of evidence-based health promotion over the ineffective "let's punish them to send a message" paradigm of university bureaucrats steeped in zero tolerance slogans, after at least a four-year struggle.

How this policy was adopted by the university is briefly recounted in this editorial by the official university newspaper, The Diamondback.

The editorial recognizes that the leaders and members of Maryland's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, beginning with Stacia Cosner, executed the elementary political ground rules of expanding your base, enlisting allies, and building an organization that will persevere after you have to move on.

Some might think it an overstatement when I say that this exemplifies Students for Sensible Drug Policy. And yet around the nation SSDP chapters have demonstrated on numerous campuses the same success in changing campus policies.

When one considers university political activity is the primary training ground for the nation's future political leadership, SSDP stands out as the national organization that most effectively teaches the real world lessons that will enable America to survive as a democratic republic for another generation. This is a politics for results, not for show or self-aggrandizement.

If you are a student, you still have the opportunity to register to attend the SSDP National Training Conference, not surprisingly at the University of Maryland at College Park, March 17-19, 2011. Go to to for details and to register.

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