The full gamut of student clubs and activities were invited to the Student Activities Fair April 22nd, part of the Open Campus weekend when newly admitted students and their families have the chance to visit the campus and learn about student life. But the Cannabis Law Reform club, at the request of the Office of Admission, did not attend the event.
Rachael Friedman ’14, who founded the group at the start of this semester, received an email, and later a phone call, from Admission Counselor Kathleen Abels asking her to abstain from participating in the event.
Although she agreed, Friedman admitted she was not content with the situation. “I thought it was completely unfair that I wasn’t allowed to be there,” said Friedman.
Friedman’s intent in forming the club was to create an environment in which students could investigate the legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the United States, bringing the national movement promoting the alteration of laws regarding cannabis to Haverford. In addition to weekly discussions, the group plans to bring activists and reform advocates to the Tri-Co.
For Friedman, marijuana reform is an issue of “compassion”. Unjust punishments for users and people implicated by the production and concealed distribution of marijuana are among the things she condemns. “Drug wars affect many more people than those who use them…It’s much more a humanitarian cause than a drug-use related thing,” she explains.
Dean of Admission Jess Lord insists that the incongruity of the situation arose from the nature of the event, saying that he and the Admission Office wished to make “no personal or political judgment on her club” but that he was unconvinced that the Student Activities Fair on Open Campus Day was “an appropriate space for something of [the club’s] nature.”
Although he believes such discussion-based clubs and the intellectual curiosity they foster are “an incredibly important part of the landscape at Haverford,” Lord says the “inarguably controversial nature” of the club has no place at an admissions event.
“The Student Activities Fair is not a Haverford event,” said Lord. “It is an admissions event.”
Lord clarified that such controversial debates are “effective in the context of the larger community and educational experience, which is not provided at the admitted students’ Activities Fair. Without that context, [the issue] could be taken very differently.”
Still, it came as a shock to Friedman when her club was asked not to attend the Student Activities Fair. “I know it’s a sensitive subject, and that’s exactly why I want to discuss it,” Friedman said.