Pubdate: Wed, 26 May 2010
Source: Indianapolis Star (IN)
Copyright: 2010 Indianapolis Newspapers Inc.
Source: Indianapolis Star (IN)
Author: Dan Carpenter
Cited: Students for Sensible Drug Policy
Bookmark: (Higher Education Act)


While sex was the headlined hypocrisy behind U.S. Rep. Mark Souder's 
resignation, the pietistic politician's sanctimony didn't stop there.

Most of them wouldn't know Souder from Torquemada, but more than 
200,000 Americans have taken a hit to their college educations thanks 
to his vigilance for virtue.

Souder is the Moses of legislation denying federal financial aid to 
students convicted of a drug offense. No other crimes. Just drugs. 
Say your prayers every day, call Mom every night, get busted for pot 
and that big tuition bill is all on you.

"The federal government for the last 12 years has been saying 'We 
will open the campus gates to murderers and rapists and people who 
have defrauded the government out of student loans; but drug 
offenders and drug offenders only get no financial aid.' It is 
patently unfair and it's short-sighted."

So says Adam Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties 
Union who filed suit in 2006 on behalf of three rebuffed applicants 
for aid, including then-Muncie resident Alexis Schwab.

The three, who declined to be interviewed, sought relief as 
representatives of the thousands who endured burdensome expense or 
had to pass up college altogether because of the anti-drug provision 
of the Higher Education Act. They claimed they were being punished 
twice for the same offense. They lost, in U.S. District Court in 
South Dakota and on appeal.

But the battle, Wolf submits, advanced the war. He credits the 
litigation, and the sheer number of the law's sufferers, with 
bringing pressure to lighten the hammer.

Souder led the charge to mandate denial of the aid after several 
years during which the vast bulk of colleges declined to serve as 
cops voluntarily. Succeeding years of consternation and complaint 
brought a softening -- denial was restricted to students who had 
their drug convictions while receiving federal aid rather than before 
applying for it. That came in 2006, a month before the ACLU suit.

There's a push in the new Congress to go even farther in weakening, 
or perhaps even repealing, the Souder sanction.

"If the stated goal is to reduce drug use, you don't do it by keeping 
kids out of school," says Matthew Palevsky, executive director of 
Students for Sensible Drug Policy. "People are more likely to use 
drugs if they don't have a college education. The law is illogical. 
And what's worse, it's a double standard. A murderer can get 
financial aid, but smoke a joint and get caught, and you're out. It's 
narrow-minded, it's demonization, it's counterproductive."

Not for Souder. When he launched his crusade a decade ago, his 
spokesperson insisted the point was not to condemn sinners but rather 
to clean up campus life. The correlation never was established, but 
the "family values" bona fides were. The credentials undoubtedly 
remain solid, as does Souder's future; unlike countless futures 
sacrificed to his glory. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake