Bennett Calls College Drug Policy Too Lax
Harvard Cited as Example of Trend
Secretary of Education William J. Bennett yesterday renewed his call for a crackdown on drug abuse on college campuses, singling out Harvard as the "flagship" university that should lead the movement.
He cited as illustrations of the problem a two-part Harvard Crimson series on student drug use and a chapter in the 1986 Reed College Student Handbook in which students said their colleges did not strictly enforce drug regulations.
"It's a violation, an offense to everything that higher education stands for," Bennett said.
College administrators still pay "insufficient attention to the problem," Bennett told about 175 people at a lunch for the department's Fund for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, which in the coming year will award about $8 million in grants for campuses to establish or improve anti-drug programs.
In his speech, the secretary quoted sections of "Crack in the Ivy," a two-part series that ran in The Crimson November 19-20, as evidence that the University treats the drug issue casually, said John Walters, special assistant to Bennett.
Speaking Wednesday at a Rotary Club luncheon in Dallas, Bennett said, "It's important to talk about places like Harvard, because Harvard represents educational excellence in this country," the Dallas Morning News reported yesterday.
Bennett termed "unconscionable" what he called Harvard's lack of activity to counteract drug use and sales on campus, the Morning News said. "What Harvard fails to do, others will fail to do," said the secretary.
Harvard Vice President for Government and Public Affairs John Shattuck yesterday downplayed the significance of drug problems on campus.
"I think Mr. Bennett is once again engaged in an effort to grab the headlines on a complicated issue, and he's using the Harvard name to do it," Shattuck said.
The University takes "drug-selling, in particular, very seriously...We're not going to exaggerate the problem like Secretary Bennett," he added. But Shattuck said he did not anticipate any additional pressure on Harvard to stiffen drug-use policies and enforcement.
"We've gotten the impression they [college adminstrators] don't consider drugs on campus a problem," said Thomas Lyon, a Department of Education public affairs officer. He added that the articles suggested "the students seem to be looking at a very different campus than the adminstrators are."
Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III said yesterday, "Secretary Bennett's remarks do not address the basis of the problem since the regulation inand of itself may only serve to drive thesituation further underground.
"Instead," the dean added, "the fundamentalissue is an educational one of trying to teachpeople how to be responsible for themselves andothers."
Since the series was run, College officialshave had some discussions about what steps theywill take to curb drug use at Harvard, Epps said."The attenae are certainly attuned to thesituation," he added.
Bennett's repeated call for a halt to drug useon campus "is a major step he's taken to makepublic what some people have thought privately forsome time," Walters said.
The three Crimson articles interviewed studentswho use and deal drugs as well as administrators.Students generally said that they were not afraidof being caught.
While The Crimson found that students here usea wide variety of illegal drugs--including "crack"cocaine--most students said they believed theproblem was more widespread at other schools.
Bennett said it is not necessary to bringpolice or special investigators onto campuses tocontrol drug use. He said colleges anduniversities can start by "eliminating any traceof public or institutional tolerance of drug use."
"What is intolerable is public tolerance,public condoning, of the use of illegal drugs,"Bennett said.
By clearly condemning drug use, the secretarysaid, the problem will be cut down and drivenunderground, and users and dealers will berelegated to a lower status.
"It's not something we feel the governmentneeds to step in and make people do," Walterssaid. "It's simply calling on them [theuniversities] to do what is in their besttraditions and live up to their best ideals."
Bennett has attacked Harvard on a plethora offronts since he took office last year. As part ofthe student-oriented celebration of theUniversity's 350th anniversary earlier this fall,he condemned the Core Curriculum as a "core lite,"unworthy of its status as the College'seducational centerpiece.
Drug dealers quoted in the Crimson series saidthat they were more afraid of getting caught sincethe attention paid to drug use, especially ofhigh-potency crack cocaine, has increased.
One dealer of the designer drug Ecstasy and onewho sells large amounts of marijuana, when askedif they thought Harvard might get make theirbusiness more difficult in the future, said thatit depended on administrative reaction to theCrimson articles.
The Ecstasy dealer said yesterday he wasn'talarmed by the new high-placed attention todealing here, adding that "By this point, Harvardadministrators probably don't take Bennett veryseriously.