Introducing University of Surrey

This blog post was written by Izzy Watkins ‘21, Chapter Leader of SSDP University of Surrey.

Tell me a bit about yourself, what you study, your interests and why you decided to start a chapter.

I’m a 22 year old music student from the University of Surrey. Outside of SSDP I enjoy walking dogs, writing, playing music and doing voice over work. I’m lucky enough to have been elected into a sabbatical officer role, Vice President Community, at the Surrey students’ union for 2020/21 and have launched USSU’s first drug awareness campaign through this role.

I wanted to start a chapter at Surrey because our university needs to do more to educate and support students when it comes to drug use. One slide at a welcome lecture telling students to not take drugs isn’t good enough and I would like SSDP Surrey to influence policy and procedure change at Surrey that prioritises the safety of students.

Tell me a bit about the war on drugs in your community & country and what needs to change.

At Surrey the current university policy states that drug use is not tolerated and students can face harsh penalties if caught with drugs. As a result, students do not approach university support services about their drug use out of fear of being kicked out.

We need to acknowledge that drug use does happen at Surrey and that harm reduction practices are crucial in keeping students safe. Although the university has a legal responsibility to deter drug use, they must also be responsible for ensuring that students feel confident discussing drug use with support services if they need to.

What are your goals, what actions do you hope to achieve, tell me a bit about your members, what will be your focus?

Our short-term goals include…

Looking specifically into student cannabis use. Surrey currently offers a CUBIC course (Cannabis Use Brief Intervention Course) to students caught in possession and we’re keen to research the content of the course and recommend changes.
Influencing the university to provide more relevant and productive information on the drug use section of their website.
Getting involved in inter-chapter collaborative events and initiatives.

And our long-term goals include…

Influencing the university to introduce an alcohol and drug specialist to their counselling service.
Lobbying the university to make amendments to their misuse of drugs policy, punishing students less for personal possession.

Anything else you’d like to share?

We have conducted research over recent months and produced a report on student drug use at Surrey. It is available for all to read online and we hope it’ll be useful evidence when pitching our recommendations to the university.