FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

UVM Sells Out to Federal Drug Warriors

by Aaron Hawley

Just like the global “Drug War”, a victory on the battlefield takes little for the self-proclaimed warriors. University of Vermont (UVM) administrators and Student Government members have already begun patting each other’s backs after “averting” Saturday’s 4:20 event-the annual cop a buzz day. The pro-pot gathering attracted close to three thousand people in front of the UVM Bailey-Howe library last year.

This year’s new UVM administration (a place of high turnover rates) entered campus with a “get tough” attitude on the swelling 4:20 event. The Student Government was offered access to the administration budget. They couldn’t refuse to cooperate in organizing alternative events for the weekend. The event’s price tag is placed around $55,000, which likely does not include the cost of a notable appearance by local law enforcement agencies. Reports estimate 1,500 people attended the drug-free event. Assuming little marginal income was made from selling $10 tickets to non-students, that averages out to around $40 per person. Interestingly, about the same amount it costs for a “bag”.

The unanimously White (not surprising Whites are far less prosecuted for drug use than Blacks or Hispanics) event isn’t characterized by students overtly calling for “legalization”, nor an end to the “War on Drugs” (which some have called the “War on Us”). The hour-long event is attended for the smoker-solidarity, and predominantly for the overt party atmosphere, a public display that occurs at one of the nation’s top party schools. And an atmosphere that plays out in private behind University of Vermont dormitory doors, and in Burlington apartments on every other day of the year. Students cry that it is a noble tradition and promotes school spirit. I imagine there are likely other causes thousands of students could rally for. Acts of hate or sexual violence on campus come to mind.

I wasn’t on campus or even in Burlington on April 20th. But from what I heard and read, most didn’t let the University stand in their way from smoking on their “holiday”. Some attempted to initiate a 4:20 on other parts of campus. Even people who stopped by to catch the free concert, headlined by Vida Blue, which features members from Phish, the Allman Brothers and the Funky Meters (perhaps not the culture our campus’ drug-warriors should promote), still smoked that day. These students were sure to do it the way University administration wanted them to: behind closed doors.

Students were forewarned ahead of time that police would crack down, so they faced the trend in the form of a question, “Education or Incarceration?”. Fortunately for them, they were privileged college students and were given a choice of whether to get arrested or stay in school-not an alternative offered to most of the urban victims of the war on drugs.

“Education vs. incarceration” is an equation for increased funding by state and federal governments to prisons, and decreased funding to educational programs. Sentencing laws inspired by the “War on Drugs”, like mandatory minimums and California’s ‘Three-Strikes’, result in more prisons and higher incarceration rates for drug and other non-violent offenders.

UVM’s version of the “War on Drugs” benefited various rock and hip-hop acts. In the real “War on Drugs”, the beneficiaries of irrational decision-making and policy are arms manufacturers, military contractors, pharmaceutical companies, private prison and prison-related businesses, and multinationals needing an excuse to protect their investments in natural resources (need I say “Oil”?).

The casualties in the real “War on Drugs” are indeed us: the drug users and their families that don’t have access to drug treatment in a “get tough on crime” and “just say no” society; those who “pay” for it in taxes and loss of public services; and those in other countries suffering the true casualties. The people of Colombia, for example, are caught in the middle of a civil war involving a militarized government fighting a “War on Drugs” with heavy U.S. sponsorship.

So why do administrators on campus submit to this war? The decisionmakers at UVM can’t believe that potheads create a violent scenario. They can’t be concerned for student health or safety, because student’s smoked anyway. Their true motivation was giving in to political pressure. Fifty-grand is a drop in the bucket for the administration’s larger “public relations campaign” and appeasement of arbitrary threats from Montpelier to cut funding to the state’s public university.

If University administrators believe that it is justifiable to throw money to avoid pot-smoking events, and threaten students with harm and/or arrest from the police, and fail to create a ‘harm-reducing’ environment then perhaps they should know that they are not actually servicing students. Acts of hate or sexual violence on campus also come to mind. This sort of attitude has failed us, the D.A.R.E. generation, before. When is the money going towards law enforcement, criminal justice, unethical corporations and now rock bands going to go towards education?

Administrators have done a lot to clean the public image of the University, but have they really just fallen in line with the rest of the unreasonable drug policy characterized by the “War on Drugs”?

Aaron Hawley attends the University of Vermont. He can be reached at: Aaron.Hawley@uvm.edu

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sandes Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Honduras Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Gilbert Mercier
Donald Trump: Caligula of the Lowest Common Denominator Empire?
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Robert Dodge
On President Obama’s Hiroshima Visit
Andrew Moss
Bridge to Wellbeing?
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail