- John G. PetersPresident, Northern Illinois University
Colleges Should Encourage Debate About the Drug War, Not Stifle It
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), a social justice advocacy organization made up of chapters on college campuses around the world, was denied recognition as an official organization by the student government at Northern Illinois University.
After the NIU SSDP chapter declined to heed the student Senate's advice and apply for formal recognition as a "political" student group, rather than as a "social advocacy" organization, the Student Association Senate on Sunday voted to deny the group recognition altogether. However, student pro-life, pro-choice, antiwar, women's rights, and victims' rights groups are eligible for funding.
That means SSDP, which advocates reforming the country's draconian drug laws through its chapters at nearly 150 colleges across the country, will not be allowed to post flyers, apply for funding, or even meet on the NIU campus. NIU should recognize SSDP as a student organization and not violate their rights to free speech simply because it's members believe the war on drugs is counterproductive.
SSDP and Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) say the NIU Student Association Senate is in violation of the First Amendment and is has set an unfair double standard for student groups on campus. Sign the petition to tell NIU President John G. Peters to intervene with the Student Association Senate's unconstitutional decision.
Photo Credit: Students for Sensible Drug Policy
- President, Northern Illinois University
John G. Peters
I am writing to express my concern and disappointment with the Student Association Senate’s decision on December 5 to deny recognition to the Northern Illinois University chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) as a social advocacy group.
With chapters at more than 150 colleges across the country, SSDP has established itself as a vehicle for constructive debate about this nation’s draconian drug laws -- laws that have helped contribute to more than 2.3 million people being placed behind bars. As a place of higher education, Northern Illinois University should be helping to foster dialogue about this important social issue. Instead, the student Senate appears to be placing the views of its members over the interests of the student body.
Whatever one’s view about the war on drugs, colleges should never be in the business of stifling debate, which is exactly what the student Senate has effectively done. This should concern you not only because it ill serves your students, but because it violates the First Amendment by limiting SSDP’s funding and the activities it may engage in on campus based on nothing more than the opinions its members espouse.
I ask you to please intervene to ensure SSDP is recognized as a social advocacy organization and that other groups are not denied recognition based solely on their constitutionally protected speech. Northern Illinois University’s reputation as a place of learning and free and open debate is on the line.
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