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Graduate Student Council Senate talks drug reform at Dec. 3 meeting

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Members of the UNT Graduate Student Council Senate discussed a variety of student concerns about employment and drug policy reforms at their final meeting of the semester Tuesday evening.

Senators heard a presentation from the authors of the Harm Reduction Responses to Drug Policy Violations resolution, which calls on UNT administrators to eliminate loss of housing and meal plans as well as suspension or expulsion as consequences for first-time drug offenses. The resolution also suggests the Dean of Students office treat all illegal substances equally in regards to punishments.

“Instead of punishing people who use drugs, [we should be] accepting that this is an inevitability and trying to come up with sensible solutions to reduce harm from drug use as opposed to actually enabling problematic use,” Tristan Seikel, president of UNT Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said in an address to the senate. “We think that’s what the status quo has been doing more than anything else.”

Current policies encode a list of punishments available for incidents involving schedule one drugs but lighten punishments for first-time infractions with marijuana and alcohol.

Seikel said the resolution is one step toward implementing harm reduction practices at UNT while not attempting to impact the criminal status of drug usage.

Seikel cited the effectiveness of other harm reduction strategies like needle exchange programs, where drug users are provided safe injection materials to avoid spreading disease, and overall drug decriminalization as reasons to push for incremental changes at UNT.

“Temporary drug policies in the United States are not based on leading scientific or medical information, but rather the stigmatizing misconception that punitive responses are an effective way of controlling the use of illicit drugs,” Seikel said. “Students who are using drugs for the first time are getting caught using drugs for the first time on campus deserve a second chance at their degree and career.”

Senators tabled a vote or any further action on the resolution until their January meeting. The resolution passed through the SGA Senate two weeks ago and is slated to appear before the Faculty Senate in the future, according to the resolution.

Graduate Student Council President Tiffany Miller later informed senators of complaints about UNT employment policies sent to the GSC by student workers.

A student told Miller that hourly workers may struggle to make up hours they lost because of employee sick leave. The student in question said scheduling difficulties and conflicts make it hard for some workers to meet their required number of hours after calling in sick or taking sudden time off.

Miller said she reached out to UNT Human Resources officials on Tuesday for a clarification on hourly employment rules, but had not yet received any information. The president called the situation an area for potential legislation from the GSC.

“I imagine an easy-enough policy to use would be that students either make up the hours or understand that they’re going to take the pay cut,” Miller said.

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Another student contacted Miller to voice a concern about graduate student employment opportunities. The student said some UNT departments are not upholding rules allowing for graduate students to seek employment off campus.

“It’s based around the idea that you’re a student, and you should be able to focus on school,” Miller said. “Financially speaking, that’s not possible for everyone.”

Miller said the issue deserved further inquiry and possibly a future resolution from the GSC.

The GSC Senate will meet again on Jan. 14, 2020 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Union, room 339.

Featured Image: The Graduate Student Council Office is located at Union 344. Image by Will Baldwin

Article Originally Published by on North Texas Daily

Source: North Texas Daily

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