A.S. Calls for Repeal of Drug Law

The A.S. Council voted last night to support a resolution calling for the repeal of a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act that makes drug offenders ineligible for federal financial aid.

The item was presented to the Muir College Council three weeks ago by Muir college Dean Chips Dreilinger. The council unofficially passed the resolution last Thursday, and the A.S. Council followed its lead yesterday.

One of the provisions of the 1998 amendment declared drug offenders ineligible for one year of financial aid for their first conviction of possession, two years for the second, and indefinitely after three or more convictions, according to MCC ex-officio member James Meeker.

The resolution, already passed by student governments at UC Berkeley and Yale, calls upon Congress to repeal the amendment that, according to the resolution, “”denies or delays access to financial aid based upon convictions for drug-related offenses.””

It was presented as new business at last Wednesday’s A.S. Council meeting, and was voted on last night at the council’s final meeting of the year.

“”It’s good to see that A.S. is following the lead of Muir College Council on this issue,”” said MCC Ambassador of Communication and the Arts Michael Zank.

Concerns with the amendment have arisen lately, despite its passing in 1998, because of the change in presidencies. The Clinton administration was not tough on enforcement, but the Bush administration has been cracking down, Meeker said.

The argument against the current law alleges that the provision is discriminatory toward the poor and minorities.

A.S. Senator Matt Barge, who voted against the resolution in MCC, disagrees.

“”To a certain extent, I feel it’s not discriminatory, because it’s not based on something people can’t help,”” Barge said.

Also, the current law is difficult to enforce, according to Meeker and A.S. Senator Nick Lieberknecht.

“”Another nuance to this is that there is no institutional mechanism to check for [drug offenses],”” Lieberknecht said. “”There’s no institutional mechanism in the [Free Application for Federal Student Aid] to check if you have been caught.””

The issue is one of morals for many of the members of the councils.

“”The federal government should be in the business of making it easier for people to get an education,”” Meeker said. “”If you get caught smoking marijuana, they take away your life.””

Barge said that students could easily avoid losing financial aid eligibility, if they wanted.

“”I feel as though students who receive financial aid can take steps to ensure that their financial aid is preserved in the future,”” Barge said.

MCC held an open forum for students to discuss the issue last Thursday at its meeting.

The 1998 amendment, which met little opposition at the time, is now under fire by Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank. Frank proposed an amendment to it in February. The amendment was co-sponsored by 29 other representatives.

Many students doubt the effectiveness of the resolution and the proposed amendment.

“”I doubt that the provision will be repealed from the law,”” Barge said. “”No lawmaker wants to appear as though he or she is soft on drugs.””

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