High Times ranking should be touted, not ignored
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 23:09
We all know that UConn was ranked 21st in a list of the best public research universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and that the Sierra Club ranked us fifth in their list of “cool schools” for our environmental efforts. Any time a national organization gives UConn a high ranking on some list they’ve compiled, UConn is quick to latch on to the news and publicize it far and wide. This is understandable, as we want to boost the reputation of our university, and the best way to do that is for third parties to vouch for our strengths. Alumni, prospective and current students, lawmakers and all Connecticut residents care about the reputation of our school and love to recognize our accomplishments.
So, you may be surprised to hear that UConn recently topped the list of a decades-old national magazine with millions of readers. This hasn’t been publicized one bit by the UConn administration – no posts in UConn Today, no press releases, no anything. You may be less surprised about this when you hear the details of the ranking: UConn was rated the number one college in the country for marijuana law reform by High Times Magazine. However, despite the negative perception of the magazine, this ranking should be touted by UConn as incredibly positive news.
Most people know High Times Magazine for its praise of pot culture, centerfolds of marijuana buds and advertisements for smoking paraphernalia and gardening equipment. Yet since its creation in 1974, the magazine has also had a strong political streak. It has long been the leader of coverage and analysis of the marijuana policy reform movement, a topic that is finally beginning to be covered by mainstream media outlets. While it still has countless articles about how much its writers enjoy marijuana, it deserves recognition as a reputable source when it comes to the laws surrounding the drug.
This ranking certainly falls into the category of politics, rather than drug use. The list published by High Times was for the top colleges in marijuana law reform, not the colleges with the most pot-smoking students or schools with the most relaxed rules. It is designed to recognize the high level of engagement in the political process by college students in one of the most pressing issues of our time. UConn secured its spot at the top of the list through the hard work of its chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which played a leading role in the passage of statewide marijuana decriminalization in 2011 and medical marijuana in 2012.
Marijuana law reform is gaining popularity incredibly quickly, and actually has much more support than many other policy proposals. According to multiple polls by organizations such as Rasmussen and Gallup, over two-thirds of Americans now think that the War on Drugs has failed. For the first time since the beginning of prohibition, a majority of Americans are in support of regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. Drug laws should not be a taboo subject, any more than environmental regulations or spending on public transportation.
Of course, as a public educational institution, it is inappropriate for UConn to take sides on most political issues, even ones with widespread approval. I am not advocating for UConn to officially support marijuana law reform, but merely to showcase the incredible leadership on the issue that its students have taken. As young people are notoriously uninvolved in the political process, it is great to see them being recognized as national leaders on any political issue. If UConn was ranked the best college for pro-life activism or pro-choice activism, the most active campus for college Democrats or college Republicans or even the best college for anti-marijuana reform activism, that should be praised for its evidence of student political involvement. The University could easily phrase an announcement in a way that would acknowledge the achievement while making clear that it does not support or oppose the issues being discussed.
As long as UConn explains that the ranking is about political activism and not drug use, and makes it clear that it is not taking a stance on the issue either way, it would be very beneficial for it to officially recognize this historic achievement. We should always take the time to acknowledge achievements by our students; whether they are academic, athletic, artistic or political.