Glassboro – Rowan University’s organization Students for Sensible Drug Policy, along with the Progressive Student Alliance, held their second annual Box City protest on Wednesday, Oct. 24 from 6 p.m. until 8 a.m. Thursday morning.
About 70 students built cardboard box houses on the Student Center Patio to represent the students evicted for first-time drug offenses or for being in the presence of somebody using drugs.
“We want to keep students in their dorms,” said Samantha Powell, SSDP president. “The best thing for them would be to have some sort of drug education and counseling.”
SSDP is an international student-led organization that is devoted to changing the punishments for first-time drug offenses on campus. Rowan and other SSDP chapters are aiming to change how universities handle drug offenses. Unlike the three-strike policy for alcohol, Rowan has a zero-tolerance drug policy.
While sleeping in cardboard shelters overnight was the primary objective of the event, there were also various events and a petition. SSDP showed an activism video along with screening “The Union,” a documentary focusing on the reasons why marijuana should be viewed along the lines of alcohol and tobacco.
Phil Simmons, former SSDP president, educated students on Rowan’s drug abuse policy and the war on drugs in general. Simmons wants to continue with the protest so that Rowan administration will hear the voices of change.
“We’re going to use this as a way to sort of push the administration, so rather than just having the protest, we’re going to be using this as a sort of staple and telling the administration, ‘Look how many students are out there, look how many students signed the petition,” Simmons said. “This is a real problem. We need to talk about changes to help the people out there.”
Other members of SSDP have the same mindset as Simmons. Senior Akin Olla also feels that this protest is just the beginning of everything.
“The problem of dorm eviction has not been solved and unfortunately a lot of people perceive it as an attempt to protect marijuana smokers while not realizing the policy affects people who actually have drug addictions,” Olla said. “This is just a stepping stone into bringing awareness.”
Along with helping the homeless Rowan students, SSDP teamed up with the Progressive Student Alliance to collect coats, jackets, blankets and backpacks to donate to homeless shelters in Philadelphia. SSDP is also collecting canned goods for the Glassboro Food Bank.
SSDP and PSA believe these items are essential to the homeless, especially as the cold winter months approach.
PSA president Alan Dodd says this is not a new concept for him and his friends.
“It’s something that myself and friends started doing around Thanksgiving and in the winter time in general a few years ago,” Dodd said. “We would put on events, and instead of there being a dollar amount to attend the show, we’d ask people to bring blankets or toiletries or anything that somebody who doesn’t have a place to live and is out on the cold streets would benefit from, whether it’s for a few hours, a night, or a week.”
PSA and SSDP heavily focused on backpacks because it makes it easier for the homeless to keep track of their personal items and migrate from place to place.
SSDP strives to educate students about drugs and their rights. Powell believes that with enough education, there will eventually be a change in the policy so students who are homeless due to Rowan’s drug policy aren’t worried about where they are going to live or how their grades will suffer.
“I think it’s really important for students to know their rights and to know that with enough dedication and enough people and enough power that I think it’s actually possible that we can change things and we can make this university what it was meant to be, which is a place for us to learn and further our education and not have to worry about where we’re going to live,” Powell said.
For more information about SSDP, go to ssdp.org, stop by room 201B in Robinson Hall Tuesdays at 9 p.m. for meetings, or email RowanSSDP@gmail.com.