Kris Lotlikar, DRCNet University CoordinatorThe Higher Education Act (HEA) reform campaign's campus activity on campuses has wrapped up for the school year, as students finished up their final exams and left for the summer. In only six months, students on over 200 campuses defined themselves as a valuable part of the drug policy reform movement as they united in opposition to a law that delays or denies federal financial aid to drug offenders. Bill H.R. 1053, sponsored by Barney Frank, which would repeal the HEA drug provision, gained three new co-sponsors in the last week and now has the support of 14 congressional representatives. (Visit http://thomas.loc.gov/ for information on any federal legislation; search on H.R. 1053 for info on the HEA reform bill.)
The student campaign, coordinated by DRCNet, has been formally endorsed by ten student governments and two statewide student associations. Over thirty organizations, including the American Public Health Association, the National Organization of Women, the NAACP and the ACLU, have endorsed a national sign-on letter supporting H.R. 1053. (Visit http://www.u-net.org/supporters.html for a regularly updated list of the campaign's and letter's endorsers.)
Being organized primarily online, the HEA reform campaign has made full use of cyberspace to enhance and expand tradition activism efforts. Over 11,000 emails and faxes have been sent to congress calling for reform, from http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com. (Please visit RaiseYourVoice.com is you haven't already, and add your vote to the students' call for sanity.)
Student leaders will not be sitting idle with summer. Many of the students involved not the HEA reform campaign will be playing an active roll in developing strategy and materials to kick off in September. Fall semester of 1999 promises to be a breakthrough year for campus activism around drug policy reform. Issues such as prison vs. higher education spending and harm reduction on campuses offer opportunities to engage larger numbers of students in a discourse over the consequences of the drug war. A national student leadership conference on drug policy reform is being planned at George Washington University in November.
E-mail discussion groups are being formed for students who want to get more involved in the HEA reform campaign and other student efforts. If you have any ideas, questions, or would just like to play a larger role, send an e-mail to [email protected].