Phil Simmons is the chapter leader for Rowan Universities SSDP chapter. Phil recently held a very successful “Box Protest” that spurred debate on his campus and allowed for a sensible discussion on Rowan’s campus policies with his campus Administration. Today we Celebrate Phil’s leadership in using public protest to spur debate and translating that into real policy change at a campus level. Phil’s creativity and persistence are something all student leaders can learn from.
So today SSDP Nation gives a big THANK YOU to Phil Simmons and we sat down with him to find out a little more on how he came to be the Rockstar he is today.
SSDP: When did you first get involved with SSDP?
I first heard about SSDP a not too long ago while I was making call to California and speaking to voters about Prop. 19. After reading a bit about the organization I thought that my campus really needed a chapter. A year has whipped by so fast but we went from being just an idea to a large organization that seems to be making an impact.
SSDP: What has been your favorite SSDP experience?
I think that our chapter of SSDP has really influenced the Rowan campus in terms of activism. The Rowan students are notorious for being apathetic. However since we were established there seems to be a growing body of student within the school that wants to work for change and truly believe we can achieve it. It’s just been really cool to see Rowan change and to see students motivated to do something about issues on campus.
SSDP: What issues are most important for your chapter?
Since the beginning we wanted to make sure that Rowan SSDP put drug education and drug treatment resources first while also putting pressure on the university about drug policies. I think this has been a pretty good strategy because have been able to establish a relationship with the administration on improving education and implementing harm reduction methods. We set a goal early on this year to get one SSDP harm reduction center on campus. We ended up getting the Dean of Students to fully fund a SSDP harm reduction center in every single dorm building. I think this stemmed from the conversations that our e-board had with several departments involved with student health as well as the general “Box City” protest we had. Box City protested the schools dorm eviction policy and lack of drug education which brought a fair amount of media attention to the school and probably put some pressure on the administration. We hope that this will give us credibility in the future when tackling policy issues with more aggression.
SSDP: Do you have any events planned for the this semester?
Well the semester is almost over, so we are having elections coming up and plan an end of the year celebration for our accomplishments. We will be watching Rowan’s very scary drug “education” films and having a big pizza party for our members. For next semester we will be participating in rowan’s first ever “Tent City” which is a week long campout/teach in. SSDP will be teaching about drug policy and providing drug education. We also will be working on the NJ decriminalization bill and hopefully will seriously be tackling dorm eviction.
SSDP: What do you like best about being part of SSDP?
Easy question. I feel that I’m actually accomplishing something and I know that we are doing the right thing.
SSDP: Do you have any advice for other chapter leaders?
I think that chapters need to concentrate on establishing a relationship with their administration. Try not to get into an “Us vs. them” mentality. Work with campus health professionals. If you go to the administration with your schools psychological services or substance abuse department on your side, you’re bringing a bazooka to a fist fight.
SSDP: Any fun facts about you?
I’m a psychology student. I hope to achieve a PhD in clinical psychology and research alternative drug treatment methods.