Way back in June, we posted about an all-campus email announcing two amendments to Wesleyan’s Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Policy. Then, the student uproar was over the ban, despite WSA consensus, of open containers of alcohol on University property. Today, the debate continues over the other element of that revision: a ban on the misuse of prescription drugs, particularly for academic performance enhancement, which many regard as a form cheating.
Specifically, some students think the policy should go further. Is using Ritalin, Adderall, or similar “smart drugs”—without a legal prescription—tantamount to seeking an unfair advantage, “much like steroid use in sports”? Why is this any different loading up on caffeine right before a test, or any other substance believed to enhance academic performance? Should the use (and misuse) of these drugs to increase alertness or concentration be treated as an honor code violation?
CBC radio show Q posed these questions on Monday, using Wesleyan’s honor code as an example (somewhat inaccurately—as Spahn points out at 1:39, Wesleyan’s policy does not currently treat study drugs as cheating, or as distinct from other illegal use of prescription drugs) and interviewing 2010 WSA presidential candidate Bradley Spahn ’11 on the use of these drugs at Wes. Spahn, according to the show, “led the campaign to get the use of prescription stimulants recognized as cheating”; he relates one anecdote in which he took an exam at Wes and later “found out probably most of the class had been taking these drugs.” (Natural question: how did he become privy to this information?)
Arguing against Spahn on the show is Matt Lamkin, lawyer and fellow at Indiana University Center for Bioethics, who argues that the use of these “study drugs” without a prescription, though illegal, should not constitute cheating, and that little substantial evidence demonstrates that their use enhances academic performance anyway. The analogy to steroid use in sports is faulty, Lamkin claims, because sports—unlike college academics—are an inherently competitive enterprise, which leads me to wonder which fantastical, uncompetitive college campuses Lamkin has been frequenting.
You can listen to the full smart drugs debate here, via CBC radio, but please weigh in in the comments section: how should the University deal with (or not deal with) the use and abuse of “smart drugs”?