I’m thrilled to introduce Freie Universität Berlin SSDP, our first chapter in Germany! Chapter leader Jack Mulligan is originally from Ireland and was inspired by our strong network of chapters in his home country. I spoke with Jack about his progress thus far and his plans for the future:
How did you hear about SSDP?
I first became aware of SSDP when I was studying in Ireland. I was really surprised at how many chapters there were in Ireland for an issue like drug policy.
Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
I’d had the idea of starting a chapter at my new university for a while but was slightly reluctant to do so because I wasn’t sure how other people (see – parents) would react when I told them I was interested in drug-related policy issues. I think many in Germany still frown upon people who are involved in this area for a variety of reasons. But eventually, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it.
What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.
I’ve been slightly disappointed by the reaction from my student union. They don’t seem to offer any kind of system of sponsoring and guiding student organisations, a reality which has led to virtually no student organisations in my university (outside of party political organisations). There just doesn’t seem to be the same culture of students organisations like there is in the English-speaking world. I’ve gotten a few responses from other students thankfully, and am hoping to build on that.
What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester?
The first priority is to get drug policy issues on the map at the FU Berlin campus. We’re hoping to host a few events throughout the next months to try and find out which issues interest students the most and then focus on these. A few ideas so far include talks about harm reduction when going out and the increasing rates of heroin addiction in the city.
What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
Trying to find people interested in setting up the organisation has been tough. College programmes here tend to be a lot more workload intensive than what I’d experienced in Ireland, which results in a lot of students not having the free time necessary to get heavily involved with organisations.
What is the most rewarding part?
Finally finding other people interested in this topic and hearing their ideas and perspectives on it.
What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now?
The legalised cannabis revolution going on in the US and Canada is really exciting. I’m hoping that at least one country within Europe follows suit within the next 10 years.
What is your vision for Freie Universität Berlin? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
My vision is to have an organisation where people can come to if they want to explore a topic around drug policy. I’d love to also develop more of a club-like feel, where people also feels like the SSDP chapter is their second family.