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.