- Uncertain whose decision it was to remove the pages.
- More direct approach to be taken including a mandate to support Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Pages which detailed how to take drugs safely were removed from this year’s edition of the UCDSU fresher’s magazine ‘Winging’ It’. The pages which were entitled “What’s in the powder?” and “What’s in the pill?” were removed from the book in order to take a more direct approach regarding safe drug use within UCD.
The pages were first published in last year’s edition of ‘Winging’ It’ and was originally a collaboration between UCDSU and drugs.ie. The aim of the campaign was to inform students about how to take drugs safely and had advice such as ‘avoid mixing [drugs] with other drugs including alcohol’ and ‘Wait 2 hours, some drugs take more time to have an effect than others’.
The idea to have the pages in the book in the first place was former Campaign and Communications Officer Luke Fitzpatrick. Speaking to the Tribune Mr Fitzpatrick said ‘I asked them to be put in because I spent the whole summer with David [Burns], the [former] Communications Coordinator writing the book and we put them in purely because I wanted to campaign on them, it was in my manifesto and that’s what we went with.’
Mr Fitzpatrick continued to campaign around safe drug use in college throughout his time as C&C officer and ended up designing new posters which were not going to be used in this years ‘Wingin’ It’. These posters were used at the UCD Ball last year as Mr. Fitzpatrick explained. ‘When the [UCD]Ball was coming up, we made a new poster. We moved the campaign from it being in the book to using them at the ball. We printed out loads of the new posters and then the plan moving forward was that they were going to be used at every event. I don’t know if they’ve been used since.’ Continued on page 3.
It is unclear as to who made the final decision to remove the pages from ‘Winging’ It’. Current C&C Officer Barry Murphy said the decision had been made before he came into office. Speaking to the Tribune Mr Murphy said ‘The decision was made that rather than having the information in the book, that it would more targeted towards events where students are much more likely to use drugs. He [Fitzpatrick] wanted to do a poster campaign so putting those posters in the likes of the cubicles at the Ball last year. He contacted a number of nightclubs in town and had begun working with the Student Bar here to get them in the cubicles as well. The move was to come away from the book to more targeted addressing of the issue.’ Mr Fitzpatrick expressed his disappointment at the pages be taken out saying ‘I spent my whole year on that campaign, I would never have want those pages to be removed’.
The webpage on the UCDSU website devoted to drugs currently just refers students to drugs.ie, the group who the SU collaborated with last year for the posters. Up until now, the policy of the SU has been to support harm reduction when in relation to drug use. Mr Murphy denied that the decision to remove the pages marked a change in the SU’s policy to safe drug use saying ‘Definitely not. We are continuing with what we did last year except instead of the book, we’re going to behind the back of the cubicle door.’ According to Mr Murphy, there was never any legal pushback to the pages being in ‘Winging’ It’.
Both Mr Murphy and Mr Fitzpatrick made contact with Students for Sensible Drug Policy Ireland during their time as C+C Officer. The group which started in May 2011 is ‘an international grassroots network of students working towards a more just and sensible approach to drug policy. SSDP mobilizes and empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future.’ They currently have five active societies in UCC, NUI Galway, DCU, Cork IT and Athlone IT.
Eoghan Brennan, a member of the group here in UCD has backed Mr Murphy’s position on safe drug use. Speaking to the Tribune he said ‘He’s been the main person I’ve been dealing with and he’s been very supportive and very on board. Obviously there’s a lot going on in the SU at the moment but even then it’s an issue that appears to be very close to his heart and it’s something that he’s passionate about.’ Mr Brennan would like to see the group become a society in UCD but explained that it probably wouldn’t work due to our society structure being slightly different to places like DCU. ‘The system here is slightly different where they feel it wouldn’t work so going through the Student’s Union in a similar way to UCD for Choice. We have a plan in place now to try get the SU to mandate the support of us so hopefully that’ll be coming into play in the next month or two.’
Mr Brennan wasn’t aware that the pages in ‘Winging’ It’ were going to be removed but did make the point that it mightn’t be the best place for them. ‘I’m not saying it’s a bad thing at all to have in Winging It but it’s not exactly somewhere it’s going to be noticed when drug taking is taking place, nobody is going to have their Winging It book to hand when they’re about to take something. It’s not going to be in the front of their mind, what was said in the Winging’ It Book so I do agree with what he [Murphy] said in relation to that about taking a more direct approach and sticking it up around the Ball and that’s definitely something when and if it is mandated that we’ll look into doing more of, creating awareness I guess around the time when people are going to be doing these thing’
Mr Brennan would also support the introduction of drug testing kits. ‘I’m not sure what the university stance is but my own personal opinion is that they’re a good thing. There’s no studies to show that it increases people taking drugs.’ However, drug testing kits could be a problem as Mr Murphy explained ‘I have to sit down and think about that with the team, especially with Eoghan the Welfare Officer. There’s a lot of pros and cons to those packs. I know on campus that the university would be completely against it but then again the Ball isn’t on campus so it would be something we would think about.‘
The current idea is to undertake a more targeted approach to drug use within college life. There may be some problems though as Mr Murphy describing difficulties they face when it comes to dealing with hotels and nightclubs. ‘We’ll be targeting our ball next year again. We’ll be targeting Christmas Day again this semester and days like that. Nightclubs in town are generally more receptive but it’s always shut down by the overall manager. The staff are ok with it but then the owner of the place doesn’t like that kind of stuff being displayed on the back of cubicles.’
Rachel O’Neill – Editor