From policy research to policy reform, SSDPers truly hustle to bring sensible drug policies to their communities. It is my pleasure to introduce the newest addition to our family: a passionate student activist and our newest Ambassador at the University of Texas Arlington (UTA), Agnes Olatunji. Agnes hit the ground running after our first call together, quickly completing the campus policy gradebook. His findings have inspired him to change drug policies on his campus. I got the opportunity to interview Agnes, and here’s what he had to say:
1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Agnes Olatunji and I’m a 20 year old college junior at UTA. I’m also an international student from Ireland and I’ve been living in America for about four years now (which is how I lost my accent). I’m majoring in biology, minoring in Spanish and I’m a pre-med student. The volunteer work I do to get medical experience is largely with the working poor and people struggling with substance use disorder. I’m also involved with other political and environmental things on campus and recently I’ve started to get involved with the local art community too.
2. What policies, programs, and services does your school have to promote student safety and health?
UTA has a medical amnesty policy that covers the first person to seek aid and the student in need of aid in case of an alcohol-related emergency as long as the person seeking aid remains with the victim until help arrives. They also do not revoke scholarship or grant money for substance-related offenses. Other than that, there aren’t a lot of protections that help create a safer environment for students when it comes to drug and alcohol use.
3. How can your school do better to promote the health and safety of you and your peers?
There are a lot of things our school could do to make UTA a safer and healthier environment. One thing would be having an effective peer education program. There have been a couple of points when I’ve been “educated” about drugs, once during orientation and once during a general intro class for freshmen, but both times all I was told was not to do them. Another thing that should be addressed is the fact that our medical amnesty policy is seriously lacking. One thing that’s also troubling is the fact that the RA’s in the dorms don’t seem equipped to spot and aid students struggling with substance misuse issues, instead, they are punished for having the substances on campus as if that will solve the issue. The fact that we have sanctions at all in the first place is also a major issue.
4. What do you plan to do now that you’ve filled out the Gradebook?
Now that I’ve filled out the gradebook, I’m planning on tackling the medical amnesty policy first and learning more about how to implement a peer education program here on campus. I’ll probably also take a trip down to Austin to visit the UT Austin SSDP chapter and talk to them about organizing in Texas.