Indiscretions can cost you aid

U-Wire Editorial and U-Wire Editorial

Thirty years ago is a hot-button for politics this year. What someone did or didn’t do during the Vietnam War. What someone said or didn’t say at an anti-war rally. What someone did or did not smoke in a college dormitory. As for Indiana politics, there isn’t much relevance to the recent news that Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan and Republican challenger Mitch Daniels, both vying for governor, smoked pot in their youth. Countless others have done the same. Countless others will do the same. In fact, we should brace ourselves for more tales of youthful indiscretion, as most of our current politicians are Baby Boomers who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s. And we all know what that means. (In 30 to 50 years people running for office will be quizzed over whether they ever used Ecstasy.) And while their past histories with drugs are irrelevant, it is relevant where the current candidates stand in issues relating to the drug policies of America and the state of Indiana and how they affect young people.It is relevant that many of our jails are becoming overcrowded with first-time, non-violent drug offenders. It is relevant that the same youthful indiscretions politicians brush aside today are becoming encrypted on permanent records. It is relevant to consider if we will ever consider drug addiction and drug problems to be catalogued as public health issues and to consider full rehabilitation a preferred alternative to harsh sentencing. It is relevant to consider how the drug war affects different communities in America, because it affects us all differently. In an Indiana Daily Student article that ran Aug. 30, a national coalition based in Washington, D.C., is calling upon Gov. Joe Kernan and Mitch Daniels to support a full repeal of the Higher Education Act drug provision, which suspends federal aid eligibility to students convicted under federal or state law of possession or sale of drugs. The current federal drug provision is slanted. It can prevent people from applying who think perhaps they will receive no aid. It can unjustly punish students who need assistance to stay in college, while other students who can afford to be in college without financial assistance may encounter similar penalties for drug convictions but will not lose their collegiate funding. Rather than allowing students to remain in college to improve lives, it can cut their life paths off. Steep state budget cuts, escalating corrections costs, prison overcrowding and the growing movement for sentencing reform will affect states, including ours, for years to come. This election should address many of these issues and how we can more properly, more effectively reform our war on drugs.