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Campus News

The Echo’s View: Our Response to Submission on Substance Use Problem

by Maddy Dillon, staff writer

While there may be a handfull of students on campus that abuse substances, resulting in negative effects on their work, classes, health, and relationships with the community, it is also important to recognize the plenty of productive students on campus who responsibly use substances and excel in their classes and work. I might even go so far as to say that some students’ substance use contributes to that success and their overall experience here. Unless substances become a sole outlet for students, it is perfectly acceptable for students to unwind after a long day or week of classes and work.

Based on last issue’s guest editorial “Substance problem,” I’m assuming Aaron Smith is bothered by having to smell weed in his room during the day and witnessing alcohol related injuries at night. However, I would argue that bike injuries are more common on this campus than alcohol related injuries, and the smell of body odor on this campus is more prevalent than weed, both of which can be equally offensive.

While I understand the members of the Board of Trustees are concerned about Wilson being labeled a “marijuana friendly” campus as it doesn’t look great for funding, I’m not clear as to what factors Smith is using to determine our supposed “substance problem.” Merely pointing out that students use substances on this campus doesn’t make it a problem. Maybe Wilson simply hasn’t found that balance of sober and substance using students. Sober students may feel outnumbered and overwhelmed with the norm of substance users, and this alone fuels their frustrations.

Perhaps the problem lies with the college lacking emphasis on students finding their place on campus. If students are leaving Wilson because of the use of substances, they simply haven’t found the network of friends and activities that will support their substance-free lifestyle. Let me remind you, every event and program on this campus is “substance free.” From game nights in Sage Cafe to hula hooping in Bryson and athletic teams to Student Caucus, getting involved and making supportive friends on this campus is a personal endeavor. The counseling center hosts dinners for introverted people to meet each other, and there are dorms specifically dedicated to students who don’t use substances.

Students’ experiences here are what they make them. First-year students don’t need to be babied; they need to be empowered and encouraged to find their place at Wilson. In my opinion, that is what we need to focus on in terms of retention. Why not focus on what makes the majority of students stay here rather than trying to combat one factor that a minority of students blame for their inability to graduate from Wilson.

In terms of addressing substance use on this campus, the administration should focus on harm reduction and support for responsible substance use. I realize that federal and state laws prohibit some responsible substance use practices. For example, it is illegal to drink in public spaces; although I would argue that drinking in the open with other people is far more healthy than hiding binge drinking in dorm rooms. However, in the past Wilson has proven to break outside the box in order to support our unique community in the best way we see fit. Let’s get creative in finding alternative ways to support responsible substance use and students who choose not to use substances.


8 Responses to “The Echo’s View: Our Response to Submission on Substance Use Problem”

  1. Yes, yes and yes. As an alum I totally support this position and could not think of one word I would alter. Way to go Maddy, you are truly a gifted communicator and observer of what is actually going on.

    Posted by Brendan Burns | September 30, 2011, 3:47 am
  2. There is a problem with substance abuse on this campus. Aside from being an employee here, I have a close family member who is an addict, attended WWC, and could not make it here due the abuse on this campus. The overwhelming norm of drug use stirred their tendencies. There was no escaping it. As the writer of this article put it: “Sober students may feel outnumbered and overwhelmed with the norm of substance users, and this alone fuels their frustrations.” This “overwhelmed” “norm of substance users” is a problem to many people – including the family members who do not live with you during your time at college.

    I noted also that the writer of this article made a comparison of smelling “weed” to “body odor.” Unless there is an NSS that has stated otherwise, I do not know of any research studies that show how body odor results in secondary smoke that leads to lung cancer. If others find this letter to be representation of a “gifted communicator” as Brendan did, then we have failed as educators at WWC.

    Posted by Jeremiah Bullfrog | October 13, 2011, 1:23 pm
  3. Jeremiah: I find it strange that an employee who does not live in campus thinks they have a better grasp of campus culture than students.

    The family member who’s an addict should take responsibility for their own well-being. There are strict wellness dorms on campus.

    The substance use on campus isn’t problematic for most students–but it exists. People who are weary of that should do their research before registering.

    Lastly, NSS studies do not show a link between marijuana smoke and lung cancer.

    Also, there is no need to attack anyone’s point of view.

    Posted by CeeCee | October 13, 2011, 3:13 pm
  4. CeeCee: Campus culture is not what is being discussed. Drug abuse is being discussed. I did not claim to know the campus culture.

    What I did state knowledge about is drug abuse is happening at Warren Wilson and a portion of it is illegal – whether be the type of substance or the age in which they are consuming. As has been stated by Maddie, there is an overwhelming norm of drug abuse at WWC. Those who live in western NC know it. Students acknowledge it like the student written article in the Echo, the students surveyed years ago prompting recognition by the Princeton Review. These are students sharing what you call the culture of WWC.

    If you and the drug using students would be open to a different voice – a voice more interested in the intent of an academic institution rather than personal drug gluttony – I believe other students would step forward.

    Your statement that “People who are weary of [substance use] should do their research before registering” affirms that the perception by users at WWC is that “if you are not one of us then don’t come here.” This sentiment is not one that I would expect from a community that prides itself on diversity.

    The attacks are not from me. There are, however, attacks coming from pro-drug users upon the college and those students who are willing to speak their individual voice in opposition to the use of illegal drugs and the resulting impacts.

    There are people who value this place, this community and its people and spend hours, days and years with a desire to be a part of an incredible place built to improve lives, communities and the world. There are those, however, who seek to tear at it and defame its history by creating negative conditions warranting the “research” that you think others should obtain before deciding to register at WWC. Which are you?

    Posted by Jeremiah Bullfrog | October 13, 2011, 4:11 pm
  5. There are a substantial number of students here who are drug free and whose lifestyle is wholly respected and supported.

    Posted by Plain and simple | October 14, 2011, 12:17 am
  6. I appreciate all the comments. I think it’s great that we can have healthy debates about issues that affect our campus. However, I am a little worried that one of our educators thinks marijuana second hand smoke leads to lung cancer, because there have been many studies that say otherwise: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/25/AR2006052501729.html
    I would also like to point out that Aaron Smith is not a sober student, he smokes cigarettes. Tobacco second hand smoke has been found to cause cancer.

    And I didn’t say there was a norm of substance abusers, I said a norm of substance users, and maybe I should have added “perceived substance users.” Because not as many students use substances as we think.

    Lastly, maybe that family member who couldn’t escape their addiction didn’t find the resources that WWC has to offer. The whole point of my article was that students need to find their place at Wilson. I’d love to chat in person if you’re interested.

    Posted by Maddy Dillon | October 15, 2011, 4:00 pm
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  1. [...] That being said, Warren Wilson does have a substance abuse problem and our retention problem may very well be a perception problem. Read the Echo’s response to Aaron’s rebuttal [...]

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