I’m thrilled to introduce the newest SSDP chapter in Maryland: Saint Mary’s College of Maryland! I spoke with the chapter leader, Jamie, about her plans and vision for SMCM SSDP moving forward:
How did you hear about SSDP?
We heard about SSDP through Olivia O’Keefe, chapter president at University of Maryland. The recent involvement of the UMD chapter in campaigns like Flex Your Rights and the On the Record Project as well as their focus on the importance of Good Samaritan Policies encouraged us to gauge student interest on our own campus in starting a chapter at St. Mary’s.
Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
We are enthusiastic about educating our school’s community about the failures of the War on Drugs, as well as encouraging student involvement in policy reform. While working to gather active participants, we look forward to incorporating the specific interests of our members into our overall mission as a chapter. SSDP is an opportunity to learn about and discuss the effect of drugs and drug policy in and beyond our campus community, and a constructive platform for productive and just policy reform through student activism. SSDP’s work is admirable and integral to a more active campus community on the topic of drug education. Our ultimate goal is to create a safe and honest space for students to discuss efforts of harm reduction, the War on Drugs, and how we can be active participants in matters of drug policy while acquainting ourselves with the political process.
What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.
Our campus community has received SSDP very well– stating how necessary it is to have this open, constructive discourse about a topic that affects millions of people is something the St. Mary’s community is incredibly interested in. As a group, we have garnered attention from other students who want to take an active role in the betterment of drug policy. The professors who have been made aware of our goals as a club are excited to participate and have made themselves actively available for any guidance, consultation, or professional perspectives that would positively contribute to our greater goal.
What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester?
This semester our focus is primarily on gaining new members and spreading interest in the club. We hope to screen a constructive film, and host a variety of discussions on the issues our constituents value most. Next semester when we are more established as an on-campus organization, we hope to host a guest lecturer and actively join one or more of the active campaigns in our area that shares SSDP values.
What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
In starting a club of such a political nature, we’ve experienced some opposition regarding the validity and overall importance of the club in the context of our community. Though a lot of the problems we’ve been facing have been challenging mainly because of a miscommunication of our goals as a club, the skepticism we’ve faced has given us an opportunity to educate members of our community on the mission and goals of SSDP. We are addressing this opposition to our best ability and are actively conveying the positive impact SSDP will have on the St. Mary’s community.
What is the most rewarding part?
The most gratifying part of starting a SSDP chapter on our campus is the immense support from students. The grassroots support from our campus community demonstrates how tight-knit and special St. Mary’s is. We are hopeful to have even more rewarding moments as a club that stem from the shared passion we have. Our mission as a club will hopefully inspire interest even from outside the St. Mary’s community. For us as students starting this chapter of SSDP, having the opportunity to engage in honest conversations with our peers and having intellectual exchanges in matters we are so passionate about is a reward in itself.
What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/
As a very young chapter we have yet to cohesively recognise what aspects of drug policy reform excite us most as a chapter. Our founding members look forward to reducing stigma particularly in relation to drug abuse and harm reduction within the context of fair legislation and the on-campus community. As the St. Mary’s is situated in a geographically interesting and dynamic part of Maryland. Being so out of reach from bustling cities, we can engage with students from all over Maryland who chose to attend this small sanctuary. The excitement for this club emits from the fact that so many of the students on our campus come from various ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds. As a smaller community, there is power in our dedication and ambition to create this fluid, working dialogue on campus.
What is your vision for SMCM? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
Going forward with this chapter, we hope to see our club as a more recognized and more prominent aspect of the campus community. SSDP at St. Mary’s will continue to flourish with the kind of commitment and intellectual integrity that we see within our community. We hope to have a broad spectrum of students interested in SSDP to promote diversity and a wide range of perspectives to create the most honest and unbiased conversation about matters such as these. Basically, we want active involvement from a broader perspective to help our club reach its full potential.