Sunday, July 16, 2006

The quashing of the drug policy reform movement in the SUNY system

The Albany-installed Administration at SUNY New Paltz is very scared. In the past year, two major successes for the student drug policy reform movement occured. One was my election to the Student Presidency. I, of course, ran on a platform which emphasized the counter productive nature of sanctions for drug possession on campus.

The other was much more significant. Dan Curtis, a newcomer to the movement but a passionate drug policy reformer nonetheless, was elected to the Presidency of the SUNY Student Assembly - the student government for the whole state. That's the highest office a student can hold in the SUNY system.

Now, the Administration at SUNY New Paltz, no doubt taking the call from above, has pressed 14 charges against us and 3 other student leaders and is trying to suspend us for one year - effectively preventing us from taking our positions. They also expelled my Vice President and dear friend - another serious voice in the call for campus drug policy reform.

All the local papers have written about it. The New Paltz Times wrote a fairly in depth piece in which the Mayor of New Paltz and several other prominent figures back us. They write:

The principal charge against the three student leaders was harassment of resident life director Corinna Caracci. The students deny the charge, which they say is disproved by a videotape made during the incident in question.

The extent of the due-process rights of the students to defend themselves is at issue. The university has refused to permit the students to question the witnesses against them. Civil-rights attorney Michael Sussman, who is defending the students, has put the college on notice that they intend to file a lawsuit based on violation of due process if their appeal is denied.

If you are wondering whether or not we do indeed have evidence that this Administrator lied on two police reports, please visit this page, which contains her deposition, statements from witnesses, and the video.

Wanna hear the best part?

After they saw we had the video to prove her deceit, they came at 6:30 in the morning to my office and arrested me again. This time is was for possession.... OF A "STOLEN" SLEEPING BAG!

The sleeping bag had been moved down the hall, by a colleague of mine, about 50 feet from one room to another. It had been in our office for almost a year. It was one of twelve of them, and the Administration knew they were there. They only chose to call them "stolen" and have me arrested days after the election.

Jason West, the Mayor of New Paltz, sees right through this crap and has also been a strong supporter of drug policy reform on our campus.

Village mayor Jason West said he was prepared to defend the students. "The village [government] has not yet officially taken a position on this situation," said West, who supported Holmes and fellow student leaders more than a year ago when they staged a protest against the administration's marijuana expulsion policy. "But I've been following it closely, and I plan to write a letter in their defense. I've spoken with the students involved. They have great lawyers on board, and only a year ago I saw how students charged with marijuana use were expelled without due process. They were not afforded legal representation. They were not allowed to cross-examine witnesses." It appeared to West that "they are being targeted for their political activism and that is intolerable."

The mayo emphasized that his feelings were "not directed at anyone in the administration personally. "I have great respect for president Poskanzer and work well with him," he said. "But I feel compelled to criticize certain actions that the SUNY administration takes when I believe that they violate the rights of my constituents."

The student leaders were being "negatively portrayed by the administration as troublemakers," said West, when in fact they were "highly effective, well-organized political activists who have done everything right."

I don't know if we have done everything right, but we have definitely fought hard to make drug policy a serious issue in student politics and New York State, and now the possibility of invalidation of all our efforts over the last two years is a very real one.


Chris Fabricant said...

You have top legal help, but anything I can do to help out, don't hesitate. Truly outrageous what is happening to you.

Joyce's Cutie said...

Justin, from what I just saw on WikiPaltz, it looks like you're clearly in the right on this one.

The woman's complaint seems totally frivolous, and it's apparently an attempt to justify her own flustered feelings related to the election. I hope you win, and I hope she loses her job and faces legal repercussions for making false statements under oath.

Your work really is a testament to both the power of campus activism as well as the outrageous lengths to which an administration will go in order to silence student speech with which it disagrees. Godspeed!

Dan Bear said...

Why is it that at a university, where reason, logic, and education are supposed to flourish, do we see such insane levels of obvious injustice? After witnessing the video of the incident I was shocked at how grossly mischaracterized the situation was portrayed. This is BS, and I hope you kick their ass (legally speaking)so that they dont get the impression that they can get away with this type of crap any longer!