Source: The Cavalier Daily (University of Virginia)
Copyright: 1999 The Cavalier Daily, Inc.
Pubdate: Mon, 22 Feb 1999
Contact:  (804) 924-7290
Mail: Basement, Newcomb Hall; Charlottesville, VA 22904


I am writing to express my disgust and disappointment in the ignorant and
self-righteous way that The Cavalier Daily pledged its support to the
Higher Education Act's provision to bar federal student aid to students
convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

The argument made in the Feb. 16 lead editorial that "if the government
funds a drug user's education, the government is in effect subsidizing the
drug use," is hypocritical, based on flawed logic and shows a complete lack
of understanding behind the ban.

If the government funds a student's education, and that student spends his
personal income on alcohol, then the government is in effect subsidizing
that student's drinking. Before you hide behind the shield of the law,
arguing that alcohol is legal whereas drugs are not, remind yourself that
the majority of U.Va.'s student body, at any time, is under 21 years of
age. If "it is only fair that those who have stayed clean are awarded with
aid over those who have not," let's yank the financial aid from any U.Va.
student who has been convicted of an alcohol offense. Because after all,
like Erin Perucci states in her column ("Drug Use Doesn't Deserve Aid,"
Feb. 18, The Cavalier Daily), "a primary stipulation for receiving federal
financial aid should be following the laws of the same government that
provides for their education." Meanwhile, those convicted of rape, assault,
or other violent crimes are not automatically disqualified from student aid.

Also, the idea that this legislation will act as a deterrent is laughable.
Smoking a joint on a Saturday night will not have much of a negative impact
on a student's life. Losing a scholarship or grant will. Why does the
government insist on making the consequences of drug laws more damaging
than the consequences of drug use? 

The lead editorial also falls into the trap of equating drug use to drug
abuse. While advocating, "responsible drinking," those who have never taken
drugs fail to realize that "responsible drug use" does exist. If I choose
to smoke a joint on a Saturday night, how am I being more irresponsible
than if I relaxed with a few beers? Most drug users do not have drug
problems, just like most drinkers are not alcoholics.

Jay Fenster
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