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READER REPRESENTATIVE

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Drugs on campus. We all know that drugs do exist at Harvard. Every day, they are bought, sold and used by some of the nation's finest college students. This reality was confirmed on April 10 when two Currier House seniors, Stephen V. David '96 and William A. Blankenship '96, were arrested for allegedly possessing marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, LSD and "ecstasy" with intent to distribute. The Crimson gave the arrests top-story coverage in both the April 12 and April 16 editions of the paper. Both stories were written by Laura C. Semerjian '99.

Several readers contacted me to voice their objections to the way the stories were covered. One reader argued that The Crimson's stories were sensationalist. She argued that running the pictures of the two students with the April 12 article showed poor taste, only eclipsed by the cruel decision to call the parents of the accused for the April 16 story. Blankenship's father was not even aware his son had been arrested until The Crimson contacted him five days after the arrest.

Furthermore, this reader accused The Crimson of creating news through its own sensationalism. She pointed out that Currier residents were not even aware of the arrests when questioned for the April 12 article, yet four days later, The Crimson titled its article "Currier Shocked by Drug Arrests." Of course, the students would not have been shocked at all if The Crimson had not itself created the reaction to the arrests of Blankenship and David. Given that Blankenship and David had not yet been convicted of any crimes, she argued, these two stories were insensitive to the two students and their families.

Of special concern to me were The Crimson's policies on calling the parents of students. Indeed, in the past, similar complaints had been raised about calling parents after a student suicide.

In response to my inquiries, Todd F. Braunstein '97, The Crimson's president, said he felt "calling the parents was almost always appropriate," although in cases of suicide reporters are encouraged to exercise the utmost sensitivity towards parents unwilling to comment. But in this case, Braunstein argued, there was not much of a judgment call to be made.

After reviewing The Crimson's coverage, I had to agree with Braunstein. In this matter, The Crimson was undoubtedly justified in its coverage. I would agree, certainly, that calling a student's parents always calls for careful consideration and preparation. The suicide example most readily comes to mind. Nonetheless, even in that instance, the parents of a student are among those most interested in that student's well-being and most affected when something goes terribly wrong. Thus, when a student commits suicide, it is actually imperative that the parents are contacted--and contacted before anyone else. The parents should have the right to eulogize their son or daughter and, to that extent, shape the article to fit their own memories, which are the most important memories of all.

Similar arguments could be made in the wake of Blankenship's and David's arrest. Still, there is a vital difference in coverage between suicide and alleged drug dealing. Suicide necessarily calls for a sympathetic story. Although most would agree that suicide is not the answer to life's problems, most would also agree that one who commits suicide deserves sympathy. In my opinion, drug dealers do not deserve sympathy.

After reading the charges leveled against Blankenship and David, my first reaction was to pity them. Currier House is within 1,000 feet of the Peabody Elementary School on Linnaean St., and, as a result, the two students were charged with intention to distribute within a school zone. Surely, I thought, these students were victims of circumstance. They were selling drugs, but they weren't selling drugs to children. They just happened to be near an elementary school.

But I soon realized that Blankenship and David do not deserve my pity, and that the friends who defended these two alleged dealers should reconsider that friendship. It is all too easy to rationalize these two men's actions. Indeed, they were not selling hard drugs, and they probably were not selling to children, but they were allegedly contributing to the profits of those who do.

The selling of soft drugs is inseparable from the selling of hard drugs. Likewise, selling to college students is inseparably linked with selling to children. Don't fool yourself; somewhere up the line, Blankenship and David were allegedly profiting someone who does these things. Somewhere along the line, they were allegedly putting guns in the hands of America's future gang members. Unfortunately, these two should be counting their blessings. If they were anything but Harvard students, they wouldn't be getting any sympathy at all.

Shawn C. Zeller '97 is The Crimson's ombudsperson, or reader representative. He can be reached by phone at 493-2568 or by e-mail at szeller@fas..harvard.edu. He is neither a Crimson executive nor a Crimson editor, and his opinions are his alone.

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