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Editorial: Dealing with drug culture

It’s been years since Bill O’Reilly went into hysterics over ecstasy and alcohol at Sex Power God, but the well-known secret of drug cultures at colleges and universities has been around for much longer. As the semester begins, we call on students to reevaluate Brown’s drug environment. As a school with a liberal reputation, we are often assumed to have a rampant party culture. While this may be true for some, it ignores students with little interest in that culture. We ask students to strive for accountability when engaging in alcohol and drug use on campus. Respecting fellow students’ boundaries, as well as one’s own, will go a long way in repairing campus rifts over substance use.

Though the University’s policy toward drug use is strict on paper, it is in practice more centered on curbing collateral damage. After all, it is unrealistic for administrators to demand college students to end illicit alcohol and drug use. We believe the University provides students with the resources necessary to stay safe. Emergency Medical Services is just a call away, and Brown officials as well as the Department of Public Safety routinely send out emails on responsible drinking before events like Spring Weekend or Sex Power God.

These measures accompany a relaxed approach to those of us using alcohol or drugs: Students are rarely punished for drinking. Last year, hundreds of students smoked marijuana on the Main Green in honor of April 20, with no repercussions. Just as the New Curriculum makes us responsible for our own education, the University has given us tools to stay safe in the “party culture,” acknowledging that we are adults responsible for our own decisions.

Despite these measures, our drug culture is problematic, and as students, we have few to blame but ourselves. A distinct tension exists within the student body over two main issues: abuse of drugs and alcohol, and the rift between students who imbibe and those who do not. The matter of abuse occasionally erupts — the altercation between an intoxicated student and DPS at Josiah’s last semester comes to mind — but more important and insidious are the multiple calls made to EMS surrounding events like Sex Power God on behalf of students with alcohol poisoning. Students should certainly be aware of EMS’ existence and accessibility, but students, sometimes even including the ill students themselves, often assume negative repercussions will stem from calling DPS to a particularly wild scene.

This issue exacerbates the spillover of party culture into the lives of students who want to avoid it. While there’s enough variety in the student body to steer clear of drugs like alcohol and marijuana, the permeating smell of pot upon entering some dorms or the presence of disruptive, intoxicated students at 3 a.m. has negative externalities that affect students beyond those directly involved. Whether in response to a desire to be free of secondhand smoke or merely a wish not to be exposed to the party environment, respecting the boundaries of others in our community is important for a happy student body.

Students must commit to monitoring their behavior, and, whether imbibing or not, they must demonstrate a willingness to communicate openly about what is appropriate in a shared living space. This should be applied not only on an individual and dorm-specific level but also to the campus as a whole.  In order to create an environment comfortable and safe for everyone, we must have an open conversation about drugs that extends beyond merely groups of friends with similar mindsets.

Spring brings 4/20, Spring Break, Spring Weekend and revelry spurred by warm weather. Have fun, keep safe and remember that creating an open, safe community comes from the bottom up.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Daniel Jeon, and its members, Mintaka Angell, Sam Choi, Nick Morley and Rachel Occhiogrosso. Send comments to


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