One of the foundational tenets of Libertarian philosophy is to legalize drugs, for reasons of personal autonomy and to avoid government intervention into the private lives of citizens. This often leads pro- Liberty student groups like CollegeLibertarianss, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), and Students for Liberty (SFL) to SSDP. This is exactly what happened with the YAL chapter at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama.
I first made contact with Karl Gilbert, the co-founder of the Spring Hill College YAL chapter, back in September of 2015. Our first conversation is still memorable to me due to the complexity of the level of detail we discussed and the enthusiasm Karl exhibited. Karl’s approach was somewhat unorthodox insofar as how to pitch SSDP to his campus administration. Going into the process, we were concerned that a Jesuit University in the heart of the deep south might be a place where we would encounter pushback from campus administration. Karl and I had several discussions over the course of last semester where he developed a very fleshed out description of harm reduction that would become the centerpiece of his pitch for the need to have an SSDP chapter at Spring Hill College. It took some careful maneuvering on his part, but he was ultimately successful in being approved and I am grateful that his approach has become a guideline for students at Jesuit schools or other religious/conservative schools to adopt in the future.
Another aspect that makes the Spring Hill SSDP chapter worth watching is their surrounding community and the climate around youth drug use in the State of Alabama. Mobile, AL has a large population of people of color, many of whom have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs. I am hopeful that the presence of an SSDP in the community (and one of the first SSDP chapters in the State) will provide space for a dialogue around how the war on drugs disproportionately affects people of color in that city and across the US to advance. Alabama also tends to have some of the worst practices in the country around random drug testing of students. And it tends to be pervasive from the middle school level through the collegiate level in some places, including the State’s flagship University in Tuscaloosa, AL (where we also have an SSDP chapter). I look forward to developing some plans with these chapters to focus on bringing randomized student drug testing to an end in that state.