I’m thrilled to introduce our newest SSDP chapter, Point Park University from Pittsburgh, PA! I talked to chapter leader Chloe about her chapter’s accomplishments so far and what they have planned for the future:
How did you hear about SSDP?
Through my studies in the humanistic-oriented psychology program at Point Park University I’ve been learning more and more about the orientation of some of today’s drug policies. I began researching more into the subject and stumbled upon the Drug Policy Alliance’s (DPA) website, which echoed my views more articulately than I could’ve ever hoped for. I was put in touch with the DPA’s Legislative and Organizing Coordinator, Jeronimo Saldana, who gave me an abundance of information of how to get involved as a student and the people I needed to get in touch with to do so. After talking with the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) Outreach Coordinator, Jake Agliata, I was able to start up a chapter in no time.
Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
I’ve always been a proponent for marijuana legalization and feel the drug is way too demonized in our society at the expense of its abundant health benefits. As its use for medical issues becomes more and more accepted, I’m working on a thesis exploring the ways marijuana might be beneficial in the mental health arena as well. Aside from marijuana legislation, I’m also passionate about finding alternatives to the cookie cutter 12-step program, reducing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C by providing clean syringe access, and reducing incarceration rates for nonviolent drug offenses, while increasing support and treatment for addicted individuals. I currently volunteer for Prevention Point Pittsburgh, an organization that is dedicated to providing health empowerment services to injection drug users.
What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.
Point Park University couldn’t have been a more appropriate place to start a chapter. Teachers and students are extremely supportive of this initiative and many of the values taught in the psychology program correlate with the views of the DPA and SSDP. With the help of my classmate, Kevin Gallagher, we had no trouble getting fellow graduate students to join the chapter and we are currently working on getting some passionate undergrads on board so the chapter can continue to thrive after we graduate. Thanks to Justin Karter, another one of our classmates, we’ve already gotten some interest from some members of Point Park’s Student Solidarity Organization, which is another amazing group on campus.
What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester?
Our goal is to have three events this year including a viewing of the film “The House I Live In,” a “Marijuana: Fact vs. Fiction” booth, and a leader from Pennsylvania to come in and talk about drug policy in the state. I was able to participate in the recent SSDP lobby day for SB 3 (medical marijuana), which was a great experience. I met with a representative from Senator Jay Costa’s office who was extremely helpful and approachable. It made me realize that one person truly can make a difference when it comes to policy change. Member Leatra Tate and I are also hoping to attend the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Conference in Washington, D.C.
What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
Getting everyone together at the same time has definitely been our biggest challenge considering most graduate students are also working part or full-time jobs and undergraduate schedules sometimes clash with graduate schedules. I’m optimistic for future events and using the multiple modes of electronic communication that are available to us to communicate online when we can’t get together in person.
What is the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part is knowing you are making a difference even if it is only a little bit at a time. Sometimes the most refreshing part is getting your views out there and acknowledged.
What are you most excited about right now?
With the recent SSDP lobby day and Mid-Atlantic Conference being held so close to us I don’t think we could’ve picked a better time to start a chapter. I’m very optimistic about the progression of our chapter and am hoping our “Marijuana: Fact vs. Fiction” booth is able to happen because I think it would be a great way to hear the views of Pittsburgh citizens on the issues.
What is your vision for Point Park University? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
I’d love to see the chapter grow in numbers and gain popularity. Right now we are recognized by the SSDP as a chapter, but it would be nice to eventually go through the formal process to be recognized by the University too. As policies change over the years, I’d love for the chapter to be recognized as a frontrunner in promoting modification and endorsing the values of DPA and SSDP in Pittsburgh.
Note: This chapter is not currently recognized by Point Park University and does not necessarily reflect the views of the institution, but rather several students who attend it.