Student representatives are no closer to implementing planned drug harm reduction policies as they face strong resistance from the University.
Significant differences of opinion have emerged between The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) and the University, with the two making little progress in reconciling differences since the initial attempt by UMSU to begin providing drug testing kits to university students in 2016.
Elizabeth Capp, Director of Students and Equity, said that while the University was keen to work with UMSU on promoting student wellbeing, they had strong doubts around several aspects of UMSU’s policy, including the legality of drug testing kits, the logistics of administering the kits and the potential reputational risk to the University.
“There are probably a dozen risks at least that need to be managed and thought through. Things like, how you manage giving students these [kits] in a confidential setting. How do you manage students bringing drugs on campus to test?” Capp said.
Co-creator of 2016’s harm reduction policy, Gulsara Kaplun, with Students for Sensible Drug Policy Unimelb, acknowledged the roadblocks between UMSU and the implementation of its policy.
“They expressed concerns…a laundry list of concerns,” Kaplun said. “Having their concerns is valuable because it’s made us move towards a more rigorous system.”
Both sides are hopeful that they will reach a compromise, and resolve the currently existing differences. However, both sides also said that a lack of agreement would mean that the policy could not be implemented.
If no compromise is reached, Kaplun indicated a willingness to pursue other policy settings.
“If that avenue was closed off by the University then maybe we include it as part of our activist branch and we try and make sure that it’s available at the state level,” she said.
“It’s a tremendously useful service that needs to be accessible.”
Students’ Council passed the inital motion to implement the harm reduction kits in 2016.
Students’ Council has voted on a motion to reaffirm its position in 2017 and to suport providing education sessions to students on reducing drug-related harm.
However, a motion for a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy UniMelb to attend the Harm Reduction International Conference 2017 in Montreal was not carried at the last Students’ Council meeting of April.