Thursday, May 10, 2007

Woody's Take

From The Daily Bulldog:

Ah, springtime in college... who can forget those glorious days of trying to concentrate on a textbook with your back against a big tree and your face upturned toward the warm April sun? Or the frisbees and the whiffle ball games and the early morning walks to class in shirtsleeves and sandals in the balmy springtime air? And who can forget the drug dogs?

You know, the drug dogs. The drug dogs requested by campus security to make sure that no student could possibly be committing the unthinkable -- smoking marijuana at a time when he should be studying 24 hours a day. The drug dogs that can feret out that single joint of marijuana which, under current federal law, will cost even the best student every bit of her student aid for the next 12 months. (That the same student could be convicted of one or two or even three OUI charges without any effect on her student aid isn't the point of this editorial).

It happened here at the University of Maine at Farmington less than two weeks ago. It happened, as I understand it, when a drug dog was brought onto campus to sniff his way around vehicles and people at an event sponsored by a UMF student group, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. Put aside the fact that a court could well find that this kind of selective scrutiny by campus security violated this group's free speech rights. (That meritorious potential lawsuit is not the point of this editorial either).

My wife and I moved to Farmington 22 years ago, in no small part, because there was a vibrant college like UMF so closely integrated with the town. For most of those 22 years I have coached UMF rugby players and taught UMF students about the law and personally taken advantage of many of the cultural offerings the college generously shares with all of us.

More than anything, I think it is my great affection for UMF that causes me to write this now. Drug dogs patrolling the campuses at Bates or Bowdoin or up in Orono would unquestionably offend me, but somehow they would not seem quite so offensive. That the "war on drugs" would be so aggressively and foolishly waged at UMF, for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that a group of students want to explore a more "sensible" drug policy, seems incredibly ironic.

And don't get me wrong about dogs. I love them at home and on the farm and in the law office. My dog Mike and I even attended our first UMF faculty meeting yesterday. Dogs doing police work can sometimes bother me more.

As a college-age student back in 1970 I visited the Berlin Wall before it was torn down. The narrow strip of "No man's land" that ran like a long ribbon between between the two Germanys was studded with land mines and barbed wire, but most forboding of all to me were the vicious looking guard dogs walking the perimeter with their armed East German handlers.

Maybe you're right, I probably am going too far. This isn't East Berlin and it's not 1970. But when I heard last week about this ill-conceived decision at UMF, I thought of those East German guard dogs nevertheless. Without very good cause, we don't need drug dogs patrolling the UMF campus.

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