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Since arriving at UR nearly three years ago, I am happy to say there has been little I have had to complain about regarding student life. Remodeling of “The Pit” and Dining plan changes aside, much of the social and academic life has been only a good experience for me, one I feel is shared by much of the student body. With the progression of one’s academic career, however, comes the development of understanding one’s surroundings — in this case, my increasing comfortableness with the distinctive UR culture that makes the school unique. I would say, though, that one subject in particular has been a source of intrigue to me because of its supposed out-of-place-ness within the mini-Ivy university: drug use on campus, and the social culture of drugs in an academically rigorous institution.

Rewinding to my freshman year, I came to UR in January as a mid-year transfer from SUNY Geneseo. According to princetonreview.com, Geneseo was formerly ranked No. 5 on a list of the top 20 schools of “Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians.” As one might infer, cloves were not the only substance widely used and available on campus, and during an orientation event we learned that the elimination of hard drugs were a primary objective of the school administration. Although academics was the primary reason for my transfer, I will admit I don’t particularly miss the habitual question that I encountered nearly every night walking back from the library — “Dude, do you know where to score some weed?”

Arriving at UR, then, was particularly refreshing because “Messed-Up Monday” wasn’t a campus-wide event, and “Thirsty Thursday” didn’t inevitably require a trip of one or more people to the hospital for an unpleasant stomach pumping. Perhaps it was that I simply lived in a building of raging alcoholics, and undoubtedly this is not the experience of every Geneseo student, but the difference was very pronounced in my mind and lent to my intrigue in my very different experience at UR. Although I’m not personally adverse to drug and alcohol use, and as a twenty-one year old junior have been known to hit it up at Club Mel when I can, it was interesting to observe the change in the dynamic of social life, which I had subsequently not continued to notice in any particular degree upon arriving here — until, that is, some months later, I happened to witness an impromptu drug deal in Rush Rhees Library.

More so than the fact that I wondered how someone would have the chutzpah to deal drugs in broad daylight and in public, I felt a curiosity at the juxtaposition of walking past the stoic busts of Greek goddesses and images of mythological justice and wisdom whilst simultaneously seeing little plastic bags exchanged for unknown sums of cash — an event that seemed so out of place in the projected antiquity of Rush Rhees Library. And then I wondered, aside from whether or not it was ironic that the exchange took place under a large bronze plaque declaring “Meliora!,” what the underlying purposes of drugs on campus served for the UR community, and how college culture and drug usage were really connected. Before the Rush Rhees incident, would not have even believed that there were certain types of drugs on campus. In addition, my former perception of drug use was that it was restricted to nighttime social activities, rather than the trend of superficial social interactions and/or academic performance enhancement that I have encountered at UR.

This is not to say that even a small percentage of UR students are out-of-control drug addicts, or that the school fosters malevolent forces that push students towards drug-related mania. Quite the opposite — it is more that the perceptions of drug usage on campus seem to be further from the reality, especially prevalent in publications that are put out by the University.

In the University Health Service’s Monthly InSTALLment, there seem to be two or three central themes that alternate between every issue —food, depression and drug/alcohol use. As great a weekend as the combination of those may seem to produce, my installment favorite this year was perhaps the December 2010 edition, in which there was a small box discussing the use of stimulant drugs as tools for academic performance enhancement during finals. “Crank, bennies, uppers, ritalin? Have you ever heard of these terms on campus?” it asked. From the fact that it required a Google search to determine what “bennies” were, and the subsequent amusement from students over the term “uppers,” it might be easier to say that these terms do not accurately fixate on the drug problems on campus, and do not address or examine the base of the intricate reasons and culture behind it.

It continues to say, “Here at UR, 5% of our students indicated that they have used a prescription stimulant without a prescription. Because these drugs are available as a prescription, many students are unaware of the potential side effects and problems that can come from continued use of them.” Though the use of these drugs undoubtedly rises during finals, I have doubts that the student population — which, if one were to stand in front of The Commons and throw a tennis ball, they would have a 95 percent chance of hitting someone who is or at one point was on a pre-med track — is completely unaware of the potential side effects.

Rather, it seems the most common response to the use of stimulant drugs for enhanced academic performance is: “Well it’s better than failing, right?” This is not to say that it is in any way the fault of the school for finals madness, or that there are nothing less than excellent resources for students at the University Health Service.

However, it is to say that perhaps a more extensive look at the way the UR culture functions versus the what, why and how of drug use is beneficial to understanding and solving the problem, rather than providing resources with the assumption that students within the college-age demographic will just inevitably take these drugs anyway.

As for academic stress contributing to drug use, I would like to say “just don’t make finals so fucking hard.” The academic stresses generated ultimately do not require the type of social release that drugs provide.

While examining the Monthly InSTALLment is far from any true academic pursuit of answers (I can gripe in the bathroom if I want to, damnit), the final piece of my drug-culture agenda was figuring out how many different types of drugs I could locate, what they were, and how long it took me to find them.

As some can attest to, it is very uncomfortable to phone your friends and ask them to help you find drugs, and try and convince them that it really isn’t for you. For this reason and others, my sources shall be unnamed.

Unsurprisingly, within ten minutes I had located marijuana, to which a student gave an average price of. At this same location, there were hallucinogenic mushrooms and LSD (“acid”) present, although upon asking I received no quote for these drugs.

Being over twenty-one, I did not try to locate alcohol, but upon asking an underage student, their average time of acquisition of alcohol was, “usually under 24 hours.” In an hour, I located Ritalin and Adderall, two stimulants that are often misused as academic performance enhancers. Perhaps what surprised me the most was that, in under an hour, I was also able to locate drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine, neither of which I delved any further in requesting information for.

The short part of this story is that, should I have wanted to, in an hour or less I could have possessed nearly every major drug available — an experience I had very much not anticipated. Though barely a consolation, I was unable to locate heroin or other hard narcotics, although I imagine they are probably present in small quantities as is with any city setting.

In the end, I am still convinced that UR is a friendly, unintimidating environment that, like any large place, has sub-cultures and intracacies that are intriguing to anyone who delves into them.

Although I do not recommend taking my route of drug-location — to be honest, I even fear that this article may compromise any perception of me or might backfire with administrative consequences — social culture and drug use at UR is no doubt just as complex as other schools and not overwhelming of the school as a whole. It is through this reflection that I hope to further my own understanding of university life — without the stimulants to accomplish it.

Cicoria is a member of

the class of 2012.



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