Written by Joie Pecoraro ’19 and Hannah Westphal ’19, President and Vice President of Illinois State University SSDP Hannah Westphal —
I first heard about SSDP last year when MAPS sent out an email about the SSDP conference in Chicago. Almost a year later, I was listening to an episode of the Psychedelics Today podcast featuring Vilmarie Narloch, and it all came together for me. Hearing Vilmarie talk about SSDP with such passion intrigued me because I now knew there was a way to get involved with SSDP through our own association at school. I wanted to start an SSDP chapter so that people would take our organizing seriously. The idea of a Psychedelic Awareness Association was great, but it lacked initiative. Drug policy work relies on activism, and I wanted to get involved with SSDP for the advocacy aspect. We could sit around and lecture people all day about psychedelics, but attending a conference about organizing around the issue is an entirely different story. By starting a chapter at our school, hopefully we can implement more sensible drug policies on our campus and in our community. Our main focus, however, is harm reduction. College students are vulnerable to the harms of substance use, and reducing this harm on our campus is crucial. We have not had a full meeting just yet, so we have yet to receive any feedback or criticism. However, our faculty advisor has been really helpful in aiding us through the registration process, as well as other bureaucratic processes we needed to go through in order to get our RSO (registered student organization) established. When I interviewed with Psychedelics Today, they were especially happy for us because we’re filling a lack of student organizations that focus on harm reduction and psychedelic awareness. We have so much planned! Socials, fundraisers, and volunteer opportunities are our main focus. We would love to get people out and active in the community as a way to get more recognition. Additionally, attending a conference or two would be ideal. However, I think we’ll have to build our chapter up a little more before that can happen. Joie Pecoraro —
In my opinion, the most challenging part of getting this chapter started is getting our members on the same page in terms of the way we organize. When I first had the idea for this club, I really wasn’t expecting it to take such a professional route. I intended it to be a very casual, open-ended thing, just feeling out how campus would react to it. When I elected Hannah to help me out, she already had experience in an organization that took a more professional route, so she suggested that we be more serious and I ran with it. Now, we’re planning on doing a lot more with this than I expected. I’m astounded at the amount of people that are excited for this! I’m super stoked for the rewards that are yet to come in our first semester. Right now, my favorite thing about this is getting to talk about something I’m truly passionate about in such a public environment. This has always been the type of thing I’ve hid from peers and family, just because I’ve been nervous about repercussions and about how they’d react. I’m surprised by how many people have reached out to me to tell me how cool they think this is. People from high school, family members, even my boss at work, all want to know more about it. I’m really happy that I get to create a safe space for others who love psychedelics, so we can talk about it and fight the stigma around it. I’m excited for the involvement in and around campus. What I’m looking forward to most is helping out with various volunteer opportunities in the area and networking with fellow students. We want to work toward destigmatizing the use of psychedelic drugs and demonstrate to others that psychedelic drugs are legitimate area of research and discussion in the fields of psychology and medicine. My vision for our organizing has changed a lot since we started getting serious about it. By the end of this year, I’d like to see people recognize us as a serious organization on campus. Being an SSDP chapter is going to help tremendously with that professional image. I also want to see people get serious about harm reduction and recognize that there are real risks that come with psychedelic drug use that can be reduced and/or avoided. I know way too many people who are irresponsible with psychedelics, and I want to us to shed light on the reality of the consequences of irresponsible use. In four or five years, I’d hope to see psychedelics used with more respect and dignity, and studied more thoroughly at state and national levels. There is a lot of potential for this and I hope we can help to make this happen.