After two drugs deaths, how do we stay safe?

Dom Lee on what the University can do to help

Dominic Lee
12th October 2020
Newcastle University sadly lost two members of its community recently to drugs. We can't imagine the pain that the friends and family of those who died will be feeling at the moment. However, it is up to us as the student community to determine whether the University could be doing more to protect students in future.

Unfortunately, the response from the University – and in particular Vice Chancellor Chris Day – has been rather tone-deaf and somewhat patronising. In an email sent to students on 4 October, the Vice Chancellor explained that it was against the law to take drugs or supply drugs, and that it is also extremely dangerous. This knee-jerk reaction from the Vice Chancellor not only showed a complete lack of empathy, but also a lack of leadership and action at the time.

It's not clear what support methods will be put in place

A later email from the Vice Chancellor explained that the University Executive Team would be working with NUSU and the police to put support methods in place. However, it is unclear at this point what shape this support from the University will take.

Some initial positive steps have been taken by NUSU – who have arguably responded more effectively and with more compassion than the University – with an amnesty bin being placed inside the SU building where students can dispose of drugs without consequence. This is far more likely to keep students safe than the disposal service offered by police, which would assess disposals on a case-by-case basis.

The University will have to make a choice between keeping up appearances and keeping students safe

In a statement released by the NUSU Welfare and Equality Officer, it was also revealed that the SU are working hard to make drug testing kits a reality, in light of a recent petition to make them available to students. However, it was also made clear that there is some opposition to the introduction of the kits which is possibly out of a fear to appear to endorse drug taking. Nevertheless, it is clear that these kits are desperately needed in order to keep students safe, and it is now down to the University to help make them a reality. It's a choice between keeping up appearances and keeping students safe and we can only hope that they make the right one.

Featured Image: Marco Verch Professional Photographer on Flickr and Pikrepo

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