The War on Drugs

Recently, The Phillipian sent out an email to the student body of Phillips Academy regarding the use of illicit substances on campus. The email included an anonymous survey for students, asking about their drug and alcohol use. Although boarding schools are notorious for being strict and unforgiving toward their students when it comes to substance abuse, the recreational use of drugs and alcohol is still fairly common among the student body. The administration needs to assert a stance, stating they are aware of the drug problem on campus and understand exactly why students are using drugs. According to one PA student, the rules and punishments for using drugs are incredibly strict. Despite the Academy’s rigid policies, this student admitted to using drugs on campus and he was confident that he would not get caught and face disciplinary action. The student said that although he rarely used drugs on campus, that they might do so again, knowing that he would probably not get caught. This view seems to be commonly held among the student body of PA. J.J. McGregor ’08 said, “In my three years here at Andover, I have never used anything on campus, but I do know kids that have. It seems that kids still disregard the rules, but they still get away with it.” Kids that do use drugs on campus seem to do so fully knowing the risk and possible repercussions. Currently, the administration’s focus on drugs and alcohol is on the punishments, after it is established that the student used drugs or alcohol. Although a few student drug users do find themselves in front of a Disciplinary Committee, a number of these cases are never exposed. Whitney Ford ’10 thinks that being punished for drugs or alcohol is unlikely, saying, “I know a couple of people who do smoke and drink on campus and none of them have been DC’d.” The only policy close to any type of prevention effort is the Wellness Week Program. Students are required to attend workshops concerning substance abuse, among other topics such as date rape. This weeklong series of workshops once a year is not perceived to be a serious effort by the student body. Instead, it is regarded as a short escape from a heavy academic workload. Despite the Wellness Week Program, 15.8 percent of students have consumed alcohol on campus and 8.2 percent of students have used controlled substances, including marijuana while on school grounds, according to the 2007 State of the Academy survey. Another student, who also admitted to doing drugs on campus, said that he was not afraid of getting caught. He said, “It’s very hard to get caught if you’re smart. If you don’t make stupid decisions then it’s very hard to get caught.” He also went on to say, “Drugs are everywhere; that’s the reality. Even if you made this place like a prison there would still be drugs. The school is doing its part in trying to prevent drugs, but teenagers are also doing their part bringing them in.” The source of the problem does not seem to be drugs, but rather the students themselves. Andover places a great amount of trust and responsibility in its students, giving them a great amount of freedom and flexibility. Some students will respect the responsibility given to them and keep their words by following the rules. Others, if they choose to do so, will exploit this new freedom without parents or guardians always looking over their shoulders. If the administration wants to effectively cut down on the number of students using drugs, they must take action to prevent students from even thinking about using them. The effort against drugs on campus seems to be a passive one, waiting for the student to be caught before dealing with the problem. The administration must take an active effort if they truly want to get rid of drugs. Students must be made aware that the administration knows there is such thing as drugs on campus; students must be told that the administration is concerned about the problem. Student Congress, Philo Forum, a school-wide email, or even an announcement at ASM would bluntly get the message across. The line must be drawn where student judgment and freedom ends and faculty guidance begins. For an in-depth look at drug and alcohol use on campus, see pages A4-A5.