Article misinterprets SAPC’s role

As the manager of the Substance Abuse Prevention Center (SAPC) at GW, I want to correct some misinterpretations from last Monday’s article A culture behind closed doors, (p. 1).

The writer said that the SAPC is the organization that deals with illegal drug use on campus. The SAPC is actually the department within the University that strives to educate students about both legal and illegal substances. We create prevention, health promotion and harm reduction programs and campaigns designed to decrease the negative impact of drug or alcohol use on students and our communities. We also work to support responsible choices, substance-free activities and challenge students to get as much as they can out of their college experience.

The writer stated that the SAPC is responsible for GW’s no-tolerance policy. The zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use is actually based on federal law and the Higher Education Act of 1998. The General Counsel’s Office reviews all policies. GW follows the same policies that most universities have in place to deter illegal drug use and adjudicate offenders. Student Judicial Services is the GW department that processes cases when students violate the Code of Student Conduct or the Alcohol Policy, while the SAPC provides education and information to these students.

The article states that I said that the GW drug policy is quite severe. Actually D.C. law is much more severe. For the same offense that GW requires four hours of education, a $100 fine, cancellation of the residence hall agreement and hours of community service, D.C. would impose imprisonment for not more than one year and a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. The student who claims to sell marijuana to other students would face imprisonment for not more than one year, fine of not more than $10,000, or both. Caught by GW, this student would be suspended or expelled, pay a fine of $100 and lose their residence hall agreement.

The reporter writes that I said that marijuana is the most popular drug on campus. Actually, I would venture to say that caffeine is more popular. The most problematic drug is alcohol. According to national data, more students abuse alcohol than use marijuana.

The SAPC is conducting the CORE survey to get a better idea of exactly how many students use marijuana. The article overstates the popularity and amount of ecstasy that is utilized by GW students. Most GW students tell us that they know the risks associated with buying illegal drugs at places like clubs or bars and would rather not risk ingesting pills that may be poisonous.

The CORE survey that we are administering will give us all a better picture of students’ drug use. We ask all GW students who receive the survey to please fill it out honestly and return it to us. We can then relate a more accurate assessment of students’ drug and alcohol use, perceptions of others’ use and negative consequences suffered because of use.

Yes, marijuana is available in D.C. as well as in most parts of the world. We would encourage students who decide to smoke the substance to reconsider their choices. We encourage students to re-think why they are in higher education and how drug use and a judicial record may negatively impact their future goals.

There are certainly health consequences of marijuana use, but students should also realize that marijuana use is clearly not conducive to excellent academic performance. According to a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Students who smoke marijuana heavily may be limiting their ability to learn. The study found that college students who used marijuana regularly had impaired skills related to attention, memory, and learning 24 hours after they had last used the drug.

Students who need information on drugs, alcohol, alternative events, how to help a friend, responsible use, laws, policies or other related information should see our Web site at http://www.gwu.edu/~sapc/.-The writer is manager of the Substance Abuse Prevention Center.

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