Campus Speaker: Drug Policy & Implications for the real world

Each semester, my sorority offers an array of programs and talks on campus that are available for our chapter to attend. These events typically bring in outside, professional speakers or experts on particular topics. Typically, these topics are academic in nature, but are usually also applicable to real world situations or work experience. I love these events because they provide into into the professional world and give us an opportunity to hear from individuals who have taken classes like we do now in undergrad and built a career from that. Moreover, these SOE’s make events like these extremely accessible to us. For example, one week a professional nutritionist came to speak with us. She not only presented information about the scientific evidence and implications behind the food we put in our bodies, but she also spoke about what her job looks like on a daily basis. Thus, we received applicable advice related to our physical well-being and gained insight into a potential career opportunity.
However, one SOE that I just attended is the one I will focus on in this particular post, because the event really stuck out to me and was somewhat different than typical SOE’s. This SOE centered around drug awareness. When I initially heard the topic of the SOE, I planned on skipping it. Throughout middle and elementary school, I have sat through countless talks given by police officers and firemen about drug awareness. And they all end in the same predictable way with “Drugs are bad.” or “You don’t believe this can happen to you, but it can.” And that was the perspective I went into this talk with. I was not expecting to gain much insight from it, to be completely honest.
However, the woman who spoke defied my expectations. When she initially started speaking, I just assumed that she was professional speaker, or someone who worked in a legal setting or for a non-profit that raises awareness about drugs. However, I quickly realized I was wrong as she began to tell her story. She first described her ambition and life path for the majority of her life. In undergrad, she went to a prestigious university, worked extremely hard, excelled in sciences, and made significant sacrifices throughout her time that enabled her to be accepted to a prestigious Physician’s Assistant program. This really struck a chord with me because I am studying sciences and hope to pursue a career in the healthcare field. She then went on to describe a day that changed everything for her. It was a long story, but essentially, just weeks before she was scheduled to enroll in classes at her PA school, she went to a concert, was stopped by the police, and was arrested for being in possession of a single pill of the drug Molly.
She went on to describe the shock, emotional difficulty, and financial burden that this placed on her family. Her enrollment to PA school was denied and she faced significant legal action and bills. Based on the court’s verdict, they required that she contact a certain number of academic institutions and give talks to undergraduate students about her experience. The court wanted her to raise awareness about the dangers of drugs not only from a medical perspective, but from a legal one that has potential to jeopardize your entire future. After giving her talk and informing us about the significant struggle her entire case has been and the extent to which it has impacted her life, she engaged us in discussion. This was my favorite aspect of the event. She gave us the opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues. She confronted us with difficult questions such as why are drugs so prevalent on college campuses even though so many people recognize them as wrong? Do we understand the consequences of drugs: legally, medically, socially, etc.? And considering what those consequences are (as she described) are they fair or what should be the consequences be?
Her questions got me thinking about how prevalent and how much of an issue drugs are on college campus and how that intersects with our lives as university students to an even greater extent than we realize. One thing I was thinking about was the ethics behind taking ADHD medicine when you are undiagnosed in order to enhance your performance. This was actually also spoken about significantly in one of the readings we read earlier in the semester. Her talk stood in direct contrast to the perspective of that reading, which claimed that self-prescription should be diagnosable.
Finally it even relates to university policy on this campus. I started thinking about of athletes are randomly drug tested and their participation is often contingent on these tests coming out clean. Moreover, many students at UR are on financial aid. Drug violations go directly against national and university policy. Such instances can jeopardize one’s financial ability to continue to study here.
Overall, this SOE was very informative and thought-provoking for me. It challenged me to think simply beyond “drugs are bad for you” and grapple with why such strict parameters and consequences are in place and what happens as a result when they are violated.