University of Exeter set to review Student Alcohol and Drugs Policy
Guild President, Sunday Blake, has announced the University will be reviewing its Student Alcohol and Drugs Policy during term two in 2021.
In social media posts on Facebook and Twitter, Sunday claimed the policy could be altered to focus on harm reduction instead of penalisation.
The current policy states that ‘the University has a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to the possession, use or supply of controlled substances by students and while we aim to reduce the risks associated with the misuse of drugs through awareness and information programmes, we will also make appropriate use of disciplinary procedures and referral to the police.’
To help the University understand drug consumption habits among students in Exeter, Sunday has worked with the Psychedelic Society to produce a survey on illicit drug use which students can fill out anonymously. The Guild will then use the themes of the responses to lobby the University to make changes and adopt an evidence-based policy.
National and university-level strategies of prohibition and discouragement of drug use have failed.Spokesperson for Psychedelic Society
There have been a number of drug-related deaths at universities across the UK this year. In October, two university students from Newcastle University and one student from Northumbria University died after taking ketamine.
In the same month, Devon Live reported that drug-related deaths in Devon were at an all time high since records began, with Exeter seeing the biggest rise. There were 64 Devon deaths in 2019 due to drug poisoning and 33 due to drug misuse. In 2017, the numbers were 53 for poisoning and 26 for misuse.
A spokesperson for the Psychedelic Society said, “Whatever your opinions of drug use are, students are dying amid widespread use at universities across the UK. National and university-level strategies of prohibition and discouragement of drug use have failed.
“So, in the interests of safety and student wellbeing, I’d like to see the university provide free drug-testing kits for students and do more to encourage safe use. This isn’t just about testing drugs, but also about the culture of drug-taking. Dangerous and fatal experiences are often the result of a bad environment or unsafe use. With the Psychedelic Society – supported by the Guild – we hope to encourage students who are already taking drugs to consider what they can do to stay safe.”
In a statement, Sunday Blake said, “I’m committed to lobbying the University to change their Drug and Alcohol policy, and I’m pleased with the progress being made from the work I’ve undertaken so far and my discussions with the Vice Chancellor.
“The reason I want to see changes made is so that students are safer. I’m clear in not condoning the use of drugs by students, however, the reality is that there are students who do for any number of reasons including for recreational purposes or through addiction. This is not just localised to Exeter, and the pandemic has actually seen an increase in drug-related issues, including sadly fatalities at other institutions.
A move towards harm reduction will make students safer, and is a more suitable policy in terms of reflecting the needs of students at Exeter.Sunday Blake, Guild President
“Currently, the University’s policy sways towards penalising students, which ultimately means that students are less likely to ask for help. A move towards harm reduction will make students safer, and is a more suitable policy in terms of reflecting the needs of students at Exeter. I’ve been working with academics in the Law and Medical schools, as well as with organisations such as Together [and] Terrence Higgins, who all believe that a move towards harm reduction policies is supported by substantial, endorsing, evidence.
”This is something I will continue to work with the Vice Chancellor on, and I’m pleased to say that she has so far been supportive of this campaign.”