SQUEEZE Opinion

#SpeaXout: Thoughts on the Mandatory Drug Test Policy in Cagayan State University

Jhames Paredes

By: Jhames Paredes | Squeeze | Published August 6, 2017 | Updated August 16, 2017

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1. To say that Cagayan State University (CSU) students’ petition against mandatory drug testing is ‘illegitimate’ or has ‘no value’ because it is not supported, recognized or led by the student council/student regent actually proves otherwise. It is the student government that is ‘illegitimate’ as it should have represented the legitimate interests and concerns of the student body. When it ceases to embody the collective struggle of the students against any repressive policy, and consequently just become tools of bureaucracy subservient to the administration, then it becomes of ‘no value’ to the students.

2. To say that the petition is ‘too late’ because ‘most students’ have already complied disregards the fact that this is still a policy in its development stage. This policy has a huge tendency to become permanent, a requirement for every enrolment during a student’s four to five years in college. If the students do not effectively convey their concerns about the policy at such an early stage, they will just be forced to endure drug testing every enrolment. Another 500 pesos, another delay in assessing fees, another week going back and forth to drug testing centers, and another challenge every enrolment apart from the increasing miscellaneous fees.

3. It is not wrong, and definitely not anti-administration and anti-government, for students to question a policy that affects them. This is called critical thinking. This should be a product of years of higher education. If we are not allowed to think about this, then are we just going to school to become docile, obedient and passive? Okay, the policy has good intentions to eliminate drugs inside campus, but should it be this difficult (financially and physically)? It seems students bear the sole responsibility, and sole accountability, to ensure reduction in drug use.

4. To say that it is ‘okay’ to have drug testing as a requirement – should it be free and accessible or shouldered by the admin/government – is a dangerous flaw in prioritization. It is the fundamental right to education that should be free and accessible. In short, “libre nga ang drug testing, hindi naman libre ang edukasyon.”

5. It is imperative to root the difficulties in complying with the policy. Precisely because it is a requirement for enrolment that students are suffering. Waking up at 2AM just to arrive at long lines before few accredited drug testing centers in the province, and shelling out 500 pesos are all effects of the enforcement of this policy. If it is not a requirement, the students can easily enrol. (Ibang usapin pa ang miscellaneous fees).

6. Removing the policy requirement does not, in any way, contradict the anti-drug campaign of the CSU administration or the national government. It actually seeks to build an active and sustainable campaign against illegal drugs: by ensuring that students enjoy their right to education. If a student cannot pay for the drug testing, or has been provisionally enrolled but has not passed the drug test result, he/she will just be deferred. This is counter-productive. As it further distances education to students, the more they become victims of decadent culture, such as drugs.

7. Students must genuinely seek shared responsibility in creating a drug-free campus, and the administration must not abuse its power in making up university policies such as mandatory drug testing. It has already been declared by law that drug testing in schools must be random (which is more cost-effective) and suspicionless. There is no randomness in requiring it to all students. And it creates an atmosphere of distrust as the policy necessarily discriminates students as drug users who need to prove they are drug-free. Kung sa UP ay you are rich until proven poor, dito sa CSU, you are a drug user unless proven negative!

8. The creation of the petition addressed to the administration is the realization that, first and foremost, this is a political struggle between the students and the policy’s implementing body. Urging local government units or hospitals to subsidize the free drug testing does not resolve the root cause of suffering experienced by the students. If students endeavour to remove the policy now, difficulties arising from drug testing, such as financial incapacity and long lines, will disappear.

9. Adjustments during enrolment should not have happened. Students could have adjusted to university life by now. The extension of enrolment to two weeks and the release of guidelines for provisional enrolment are but effects of poor planning and implementation, as well as the lack of student consultation.

10. Lastly, even if all students have already complied with this policy, does that cancel out the difficulty they experienced during enrolment? Definitely not! Students already have a hard time paying miscellaneous fees just to get enrolled; who knows where the money for drug testing came from! CSU as a state university slash public school necessarily caters to students from poor households. Pahirapan na magbayad ng inutang, pahirapan din magbayad bago midterms at finals! Dapat may managot. Dapat may magbayad. Dapat may sagot kung bakit lalo pang pinahihirapan ang mga estudyanteng makapasok sa eskwelahan. Sabi nga ng isang estudyante, “wala nga kaming pampa-drug test kuya, pambili pa kaya ng drugs?”

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