Ernest Owens | Why Penn seems ecstatic for Molly
The Ernest Opinion | Our campus should have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs
April 19, 2012, 10:44 pm · Updated April 23, 2012, 12:11 am·
The Ernest Opinion
Like many of you, I was startled to learn that Spring Fling incidents rose by a staggering 168 percent from last year. Who could have thought a little warm weather would make such an impact?
Of course, the weather was just one in a multitude of factors that led to this increase. The one that caught my attention was “Molly.” The illegal drug also known as pure MDMA or ecstasy was responsible for many incidents at this year’s Fling concert.
While it is tempting to blame the electronic dance music and multispectral lights for the spike in drug use, these incidents were in fact foreshadowed days before Fling by Julie Lyzinski, director of Penn’s Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives.
In a Daily Pennsylvanian article before Fling, Lyzinski spoke openly about expecting more “first-time users” of ecstasy. Lyzinski came across as though she was expecting drug use to be a part of the weekend and did not express any harsh disapproval of the behavior.
Groups such as the Medical Emergency Response Team and FlingSafe also talked about their ongoing work to prepare for the possibility of ecstasy overdose among students. I was appalled that these groups and AOD were concerned with increasing knowledge about these illegal substances in order to benefit first-time users.
Since when has it been acceptable for our administration to condone behavior that is detrimental to our health? Regardless of how prevalent illegal drug use is on campus, our administrators and student supervisors should have a zero-tolerance policy.
While it is commendable that programs such as MERT and FlingSafe are accessible to students in need of help, it is the administration’s duty to continually educate students about the harmful effects of illicit substances. I was disappointed that more emphasis was placed on controlling the situation (rampant drug use) rather than helping to prevent the issue in the first place.
In the days before Spring Fling, I only received one email reminding me that I would be granted medical amnesty if I decided to drink myself into oblivion. I did not receive any information regarding the health risks surrounding drug and alcohol use. Since Lyzinski expected many “first-time users” this Fling, I question why no warning emails describing side effects were delivered to the student body
“If I personally didn’t know of the harsh side effects of Molly, I could see how easy it would be to try it based on Penn’s tolerance,” a pre-med College senior said. She described experiencing peer pressure to try ecstasy during the concert.
“I remember all of my friends mockingly saying ‘Don’t worry, if you roll too hard, FlingSafe will save you’ … but then again, I knew that I might also run the risk of having uncontrollable hallucinations,” she added.
What saddens me most is that although we are in an institution that boasts one of the best medical programs in the nation, we have a lukewarm regard to promoting the health of individuals and preventing drug use.
The interactive alcohol education video we are required to complete before freshman year is not enough. Neither is the brief trip to First Step, a harm reduction program, when a student is found abusing drugs or alcohol. Rather than remaining complacent about the issue, the University should devote its resources to educating students about the steps they can take to stay away from illegal drug and alcohol use.
Penn should not suggest that one can experiment with dangerous substances and rebound at the discretion of our resources. The current policy encourages students to become repeated offenders and develop poor health habits.
With current standards, I could (hypothetically speaking) roll on ecstasy, fall into an overdose and still be protected by medical amnesty when I ask for help. This culture has been a direct result of our campus’ approach to drug use.
But if you are not among the students abusing medical amnesty, why should you care?
Because it is likely that of the 99 incidents reported over Fling this year, one of them concerned a friend or classmate who could have impacted your Penn experience. We should lobby Penn administrators to be less open about its “safety net” that is medical amnesty and do more to wean students’ desire to try potentially fatal substances like Molly.
After all, as Quakers, we should be taking risks with our academic and professional endeavors, not our lives.
Ernest Owens, an Undergraduate Assembly representative, is a College sophomore from Chicago, Ill. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Ernest Opinion usually appears every Friday.