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February 23, 2005 - The Daily Campus (CT Edu)

New Drug Chapter Hopes To Take Off

By Elena Gaudino

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Arjona classroom 109 filled up yesterday evening as students gathered together for the second official meeting of UConn's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Members gathered around for one of the group's preliminary meetings, discussing ways that would help the new organization take off and grow in both numbers and popularity, in order to help the student population in a greater way in the long run.

The idea started up last semester between Catherine McKelvey, a 6th-semester psychology major and the current vice president of the new organization, and Dominic Sinopoli, a 6th-semester psychology major and president of UConn's Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

They were inspired to create the group after a guest speaker, Cliff Thornton, spoke vividly against the current drug policies in their drugs and society class. Both students were enraged with the facts that Thornton made the class aware of and decided that not only should their class be informed, but the entire student body.

"I just decided to do something about it and step up," Sinopoli said.

According to McKelvey and Sinopoli, the organization recently gained university recognition two weeks ago, and has already enlisted thirty members and is growing with the help of their advisor, sociology professor Clinton Sanders. The group is currently concentrating on gaining campus-wide recognition to ensure the success of its agenda.

Both leaders said that a major focus of the group is the education of UConn students on current drug policies. They spoke openly on the fact that most students, when arrested, are not made aware of their rights or what liberties the police have and don't have. McKelvey and Sinopoli both agreed that many students are ignorant to the fact that they have a right to deny access or information to the authorities in certain situations.

"Students get caught when they aren't aware of their rights . . ." said Sean Czellecz, an 8th-semester psychology major, and member of the organization. "Cops know that the students aren't aware of their rights which makes it easier for police officers to make an arrest."

The members discussed the possibility of a screening of the film "Busted" to the student population, which would assist students in learning what rights they have.

Another major issue the organization covers is the way arrests and punishments are handled.

"One thing is that the punishment doesn't fit the crime," McKelvey said. "The drug laws are so draconian and so severe that it ends up punishing kids and makes them resent it more than learn from it."

McKelvey described the usual punishment given to drug offenders such as many of the student population, as an unnecessary and overall detrimental process that places even first time misdemeanor drug offenders alongside rapists, molesters, larcenists and murderers.

"It teaches you crime," McKelvey added.

She also described the classroom aspect of the punishment as a guidebook to drug use that breeds curiosity.

According to McKelvey and Sinopoli, drug policies go deeper than the idea of catching offenders, as the laws incorporate societal and political issues.

"There's a much harsher punishment for getting caught with crack than coke, even though crack is watered down coke," McKelvey explained. "It's more of an urban thing."

Keeping this fact in mind, both McKelvey and Sinopoli expressed desire in working alongside cultural organizations, as the drug laws illustrate a discrimination against certain groups in society. They both hope to tie links to the Heart House, Safe Rides and PIRG, so as to increase their productivity and accessibility to UConn students.

"The problem with UConn is that they don't provide what's needed, like a shuttle route on the weekends because they are afraid of appearing to encourage partying," Sinopoli said. "Instead, they give their money to the police department to crack down on DUI's. Unfortunately, that doesn't solve the problem."

This Wednesday the 23rd, Friday the 25th and Monday the 28th, Students for Sensible Drug Policy will be at the South Dining Hall between the times of 4:30 p.m. and six thirty p.m. to display facts, hand out fliers and gain identity within the UConn population. The next meeting will be held Tuesday evening from six p.m. to seven p.m. in Arjona 109. For more information about Students for Sensible Drug Policy, visit

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