Cocaine on campus: Old news, new evidence

The University should concentrate on its support systems for drug users on campus, and stop running away from such a national issue

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The recent Nouse investigation into drug use at the University suggests that cocaine is being used on campus. The Class A drug is most commonly taken by people between the ages of 18 and 25 years, and it seems that York is no exception to the rule. Now, it’s all too easy to point the finger at YUSU, but does the problem really rest with our student union?

After the last Nouse investigation, the University promised to make sure that this issue was dealt with. Fast-forward a few years, the drug problem is still there, and it seems that the University has done very little about it, even attempting to ridicule the claims. However, traces of cocaine were even found in YourSpace, a recent addition on campus. It’s old news, but new evidence.

I’m not suggesting that the University is a hotspot for drugs, because there’ll be plenty of other universities with bigger problems. The very point of this survey was not to rediscover drugs on campus, but to kick-start the University back into action. More needs to be done to prevent this from escalating, but the University will need to use more initiative; and tackle this from an altogether different angle – welfare – if they want to make a difference.

It’s a fact of life that some students take drugs. They always have done, and they always will. Every other online student-related news article is about drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two. Most of us will know someone who has tried drugs at some point, whether it’s public knowledge or not. The point is that the use of drugs on campus shouldn’t be a taboo subject. Otherwise, how will the University ever be able to offer sufficient support?

If students feel threatened by the University’s policies, policies that haven’t been upheld in recent years anyway, then how can we ever expect anyone to come forward and acknowledge the problem? Most people with a drug problem are battling their own ‘inner demons’; do we really need to add ignorance to the pile?

The underlying issue here is that drugs will always be prevalent, especially in such an enclosed space, where everyone lives within minutes of one another, and peer pressure can dominate. But if the University had implemented any kind of change, as promised, we might not be dealing with the recurrence on such a large scale.

University life isn’t exactly a walk in the park, and if there aren’t any problem-specific welfare systems in place, campus can become a very isolating place. Students could very well be leaving university with a criminal record instead of a degree, simply because they were ‘lost in the system’. The University needs to tackle this problem head-on, through support networks, open groups, and dedicated staff. It’s not rocket science, and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Still, we can hardly expect the Sabb officers, fresh out of a degree themselves, to strut around campus, and tell the rest of the University what they can and can’t smoke, nor do I expect first-years to take it upon themselves to monitor D Bar’s toilets. This is a University-wide problem, and should be dealt with by the institution. Whether or not the University chooses to shrug off these allegations, it is clear to anyone with half a brain is that action needs to be taken. This is clearly an ongoing issue, and if the University continues to ignore the problem, it’s only going to get worse.

It would be unrealistic to assume that this can be turned around within the next year, and that by the time I graduate, York will be a drug-free environment. We have to be realistic if we want to address such an important issue. But rather than bury its head in the sand, the University needs to face up to the facts that its own student newspaper is producing.

These guys at the top are paid professionals, courtesy of our tuition loans, and should know how to deal with situations like this. I’m not talking sniffer dogs and bouncers at the toilets, but it’s about time something changed. Otherwise, they might as well have handed out a colouring book to first-years during freshers week, and told them to go and play in the drug den for a couple of years.
We have done the work. Now, it’s time for the University to step up to the mark and accept the challenge set.

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