Editorial: High Expectations Make for Enlightened Campus Drug Culture

The Editorial Board

If you — student, professor, prospie or visiting parent — notice students greeting each other with calls of “Happy holidays” and sleepy grins today, don’t be surprised. But don’t be too quick to judge either.

As much as Oberlin gets a rep as a hippie school, that is no longer the primary aspect of our culture. Sure, we were the first school to have co-ed dorms, and we swing pretty far left on the political spectrum, but it’s the rare Obie you’ll find these days naked in the woods playing the didgeridoo. For such a small school, we have a good variety of stereotypes roaming around campus — musicians, hipsters, athletes, nerds, and, yes, the occasional dirty hippie toking on a joint.

While some students — still caught in the throes of newfound freedom of college — certainly go overboard, anecdotal evidence suggests that for the most part, Oberlin students take themselves seriously in all aspects of life, even drug use. The extent to which marijuana consumption is normalized among broad cross-sections of the student body can actually help individuals to develop a positive relationship with drugs, as they decide and test for themselves what works for their brain and body. You don’t have to become an all-out nihilistic punk willing to risk your dubious freedom within the prison-industrial complex if you just want to see why everyone goes on about the ’60s. After all, college is all about experimentation, right?

Remember the 4/20 of 2010, when a huge circle of students in Wilder Bowl was descended upon by S&S officers as the clock struck 4:21? Even as T-numbers were taken, pipes were confiscated and smoke cleared, student passersby walked through the scene on their way to the library, the student union or one of the nearby academic buildings. This was no covert activity. The president himself could have looked out his office window and counted how many joints were circulating among the crowd.

Oberlin doesn’t rank in the top 10 on High Times’s or the Princeton Review’s lists of most cannabis-friendly schools, which include similar small liberal arts colleges like Bard and Wesleyan. But the fact that our school adopts such a sensible, relatively relaxed attitude about marijuana use suggests, rather, that we are a cannabis-friendly school in that our students are given the freedom and responsibility of negotiating their own decisions regarding their brains and bodies. As the College puts it in their official policy, “the acceptance by students of full responsibility for their conduct is an essential component of the educational process.” Amen.

That being said, this isn’t a lawless campus. In a brief interview with the Review this morning, director of Safety and Security Marjorie Burton stated that she and her officers treat April 20 “like any other day.” In practical terms, this means that outdoor public spaces like Wilder Bowl and North Quad fall under their — and the Oberlin police department’s — jurisdiction, and, per Security Notebook tradition, officers will be confiscating paraphernalia and any other substances consistent in color and odor with marijuana.

If you are going to partake in today’s celebrations, respect that Oberlin provides this time and space for us to determine our individual tolerance for drug use both in the community that we are part of and in our own lives. The real world is not too far over the horizon, and there’s no e-toke there. But while we’re still living, working, and playing in the Oberlin bubble, we can appreciate the unique, open-minded environment that this school provides for us. It’s actually pretty dope.