As a little present for y’all around the holidays, I’d like to introduce our new chapter at the University of Kentucky.
How did you hear about SSDP?
I have followed the Drug Policy Alliance as their vision and mission resonated with me as a graduate student searching for like-minded voices regarding the war on drugs. In short, I found a very loud voice. My discovery of the Drug Policy Alliance gave me energy; it gave me a sense of mobility, a sense of activism that I often felt lacked in my role as researcher and student — as ironically as that might seem. In turn, I found SSDP, which brings me to…
Why did you want to get involved/what made you want to start a chapter?
I felt an obligation to get involved because of the views I hold regarding the draconian, and often destructive War on Drugs. I saw SSDP as a great way to get involved, and my motivation to get involved was twofold. First, I am a student who pines for drug policy reform. Second, I am surrounded by a large student body at a large public university (University of Kentucky) that does not have an SSDP chapter. I see it as an essential component of the higher education system to have SSDP on my campus; to give students who see the War on Drugs as flawed, and to better inform students who may not be aware of the harmful effects of the War on Drugs.
What are some of the things you have planned for next semester?
Our chapter is still very much in the embryonic stage, so we have a lot of work ahead. Next semester I hope first to recruit because we need to a strong foundation — we need students. The students are the scaffolding that our chapter will be constructed upon, and I believe there are many on UK’s campus eager to get started. Once we have our members, then we make our move, hosting think tanks and debates, disseminating information, engaging our community, and striving for drug policy reform.
What had been the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
Honestly, so far I have not experienced any resistance. I credit this to the cooperative nature in which UK has accepted my chapter and the assistance provided by SSDP outreach. I imagine I will face some challenges down the road, but we will work to build a galvanized chapter that is strong enough to combat any resistance we may face.
What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/SSDP/drug policy right now?
A few things come to mind. I am very excited to watch the chapter grow, and to see the mixture of students who get involved. Also, I believe as a nation we are also nearing a turning point in drug policy reform. To that point, we are striking when the iron is hot, or, at least, the iron is heating. I look forward to the change this chapter can conjure given the legislative reform momentum as well as the vigor that our chapter will address drug policy issues.
What is your vision for SSDP at the University of Kentucky? Where do you see your chapter in a year? In 4 or 5 years?
This time, next year I hope to have a fully established chapter that is recognized both on campus and within Lexington. Our progression will take time, but if we can do those two things within a year, I believe we are off to a good start. We will measure our recognition by our growth — increase in membership, and by the fingerprint of our work — what have we’ve changed, or what are we’re working to change. Years from now, I hope that the chapter is a self-sufficient organization on campus that has an active role in campus and state drug policy. I want this chapter to get to the point where our members work in equal parts, a peer-lead organization that recruits and quells the issues of attrition without a hitch. These are idealist goals, but I believe we can formulate a plan to make this possible. A lot of this work will happen early, setting a plan for the future members and how we can continue building, reforming, and encouraging a just system.