Preventing the Rise of Pothead U. – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Preventing the Rise of Pothead U.

January 2, 2013, 3:29 pm

By David J. Leonard


With the election season thankfully in our rear-view mirror, we can take stock of what the marijuana legalization initiatives (in both Washington and Colorado) mean. It should come as no surprise that college students have been rallying to end the prohibition of marijuana. I, for one, have often seen students pushing their decriminalization agenda on campus. What always struck me as I walked past these primarily white, middle-class crusaders is that marijuana is already effectively decriminalized on college campuses, as well as in suburbs and middle-class communities.

Decriminalization is a daily reality and has always been the applied law of the land in these environments. Sure, colleges and universities may claim to comply with federal drug laws, which, theoretically, should prevent the rise of Pothead U. Still, I can’t imagine the DEA swooping down anytime soon. A student conduct hearing and threat of drug education is not criminal enforcement.

Take a look at the numbers. Studies typically show that close to 50 percent of college students have used marijuana during the course of their young lives. According to a 2007 study, the number of students using marijuana daily more than doubled between 1993 and 2005. Furthermore, research has consistently shown that white students (and Latino students) use illegal drugs more frequently than African-American or Asian college students. Those trends also reflect drug-use patterns among young people not enrolled in college. It is not surprising that most of agitation for legalization of marijuana has been overwhelmingly white.

Of course, even the federal decriminalization of marijuana won’t eradicate all of the criminal misconduct among today’s college students. In recent years, drug use has also worsened with the proliferation of “performance-enhancing drugs” like Adderall. During the early part of the 21st century, sales increased by 3,100 percent; in recent surveys, anywhere from 5 percent to 35 percent of students admitted to popping these “study drugs.” Despite the fact that it violates federal drug laws, students regularly secure Adderall with little fear of punishment.

Continue reading at Preventing the Rise of Pothead U. – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

NewBlackMan (in Exile): Higher Education in Mitt Romney’s America

Higher Education in Mitt Romney’s America

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

The media focus on student debt, on congressional battles over student loans, and the scarcity of jobs for college graduates obscures the racial and class dynamics that define America’s colleges and universities. With the public discourse surrounding the unfairness of affirmative action for Whites, the threat that Ethnic Studies represents to (White) America, and the absence of “White student unions” in college campuses, public discussions re-imagine Whiteness as precarious, and Whites as victim and at the frontlines of a changing educational landscape. Despite the daily lamenting of the state and future of America’s White students, particularly those with middle and upper-middle incomes, college campuses are still White. In fact, Whites, particularly those whose parents are part of the top 5% of the income distribution, continue to reap the benefits of privilege in (1) admittance, (2) scholarship, and (3) treatment. Let’s not get things twisted here; these colleges and universities are in America, so yes the rules of the game (racism, sexism, classism) do apply.

In 2005, less than one in eight youth from the poorest 25% of society would enroll at a 4-year college university within 2 years of high school graduation. According to Peter Schmidt, author of The Color of Money, “a rich child has about 25 times as much a chance as a poor one of someday enrolling in a college rated as highly selective or better.” Colleges’ overreliance on SAT scores, heightens cultural bias, and the unequal advantages resulting from SAT prep classes, which have proven to benefit Whites and the middle-class. In addition, because admissions give credence to a school’s reputation (which cannot be seen apart from segregation, and racial and class inequality), the rules and the game of college are set up to advantage Mitt Romney’s America: the already privileged. Worse yet, the hegemony of the narratives of meritocracy and the illusion of diversity—which Lani Guiner describes as “a leaf to camouflage privilege”—obscure the endless privileges afforded to the members of middle and upper middle class White America, before they ever step foot on a college campus.

This is evident as we look at the racial and class stratification of student loans and other forms of aid. The Chronicle of Higher Education found that “colleges with more than $500 million in their endowments…served disproportionately few students from families with incomes low enough to qualify for federal Pell Grants.” In other words, the money that makes college a possibility is funneled to those whose families often have the requisite dollars to make college a reality. Schmidt tells us that “[j]ust 40 percent of the financial aid money being distributed by public colleges is going to students with documented financial need,” adding that “[m]ost such money is being used to offer merit-based scholarships or tuition discounts to potential recruits who can enhance a college’s reputation, or appear likely to cover the rest of their tuition tab and to donate down the road.” Despite the widely circulated, albeit factually false ideas about students of color and scholarships, the vast majority of scholarship money finds its way into the pocket of White students.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan (in Exile): Higher Education in Mitt Romney’s America.

NewBlackMan (in Exile): ESPN Must be High: Drugs & Jim Crow in Sports’ Reporting

ESPN Must be High: Drugs & Jim Crow in Sports’ Reporting

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

My concern and interest in sports often has little to do with sports. While I am clearly a fan, someone who enjoys watching and thinking about sports, I am often drawn into the world sports because of the larger implications and meanings. Sports are more than a game; it is a pedagogy, a technology, and an instrument of larger social, political, and racial processes. During a recent interview with Colorlines, I spoke about the danger in seeing sport as purely game, entertainment, or distraction:

One of the things that often strikes me is the disconnect between progressive and those engaged in anti-racist movement and struggles — and sports. Sports continues to be seen as antithetical or a distraction, or not part and parcel with the movements for justice. I think that when you have a society that is increasingly invested in and has been for the last 30 years, with incarceration, with a suspension culture, with racial profiling, it’s not a coincidence that you have a sports culture that’s equally invested in those practices. And invested in the language of the criminal justice system.

I consume and am consumed by sports not simply because of the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” but because of its potential as a source of social change. Yet, sports continue to be a site for the perpetuation of injustice, violence, and despair. As a critical scholar, as an anti-racist practitioner, and as someone committed to justice, my gaze is never just as fan. In watching games, listening to commentaries, and reading various sports publications, I am unable and unwilling to suspend this gaze. So, it should be no surprise that when I recently opened ESPN: The Magazine, to find an article on drug use and college football, it had my attention.

“Of 400,000 athletes, about 0.6 percent will be tested for marijuana by the NCAA.” The lead-to ESPN’s sensationalized and misleading story on marijuana use and collegiate football, thus, frames the story as one about both rampant illegal drug use and the absence of accountability. While attempting to draw readers into their stereotyped-ridden, sensationalized tabloid journalism masking as investigative reporting/journalistic expose, it reflects the dangerous in this piece. “College football players smoking marijuana is nothing new. Coaches and administrators have been battling the problem and disciplining players who do so for decades,” writes Mark Schlabach. He highlights the purported epidemic plaguing college football by citing the following:

NCAA statistics show a bump in the number of stoned athletes. In the NCAA’s latest drug-use survey, conducted in 2009 and released in January, 22.6 percent of athletes admitted to using marijuana in the previous 12 months, a 1.4 percentage point increase over a similar 2005 study. Some 26.7 percent of football players surveyed fessed up, a higher percentage than in any other major sport. (The use of other drugs, such as steroids and amphetamines, has declined or held steady.) A smaller percentage of athletes actually get caught, but those numbers are also on the rise. In the latest available postseason drug-testing results, positive pot tests increased in all three divisions, from 28 in 2008-09 to 71 the following school year.

It is important to examine the evidence because of the narrative being offered here and the larger context given the racial implications of the war on drugs.

According to Schlabach, 22.6 percent of football players acknowledging using marijuana; in student-athletes playing football were the most likely to acknowledge marijuana amongst those participating in MAJOR sports. While unclear how he is defining major sports, I would gather that those major sports include football, track, basketball, and baseball, coincidentally sports dominated by African Americans in disproportionate numbers. Why limit the discussion here other than to perpetuate a stereotype? Does the revenue or popularity of a sport require greater scrutiny? I think not.

Examination of the actual NCAA study tells a different story. Indeed, baseball (21.5%); basketball (22.2%), and track (16.0%) trail football. Only men’s golf and tennis, with numbers of 22.5% 23.2% trails football amongst non-major sports. If one compares reported marijuana use between collegiate football players to their peers in swimming (27.2%) ice hockey (27.4%), wrestling (27.7%), soccer (29.4%), and lacrosse (48.5%), it becomes clear that football is not the problem. Add women’s field hockey (35.7) and women’s lacrosse into that mix, and yet again it is clear who is getting high. In fact, when High Times or Bill Maher looks for a role model within collegiate sports, they are more likely to call upon soccer or lacrosse players than a football player.

ESPN further mischaracterizes the study by failing to sufficiently acknowledge the differences drug use in Division 1 football and Division III. The NCAA study found that marijuana use is least common amongst Division I student-athletes (16.9%), where Division II student-athletes (21.4%) and those from Division III having the highest level of usage with a number of 28.3%. Since the 2005 study, drug usage actually declined at the Division I level, while increases were seen in other two divisions.

via NewBlackMan (in Exile): ESPN Must be High: Drugs & Jim Crow in Sports’ Reporting.

NFL Bounties and the Criminal Justice System: Not So Different? – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY

NFL Bounties and the Criminal Justice System:

Not So Different?

by David J. Leonard

Roger Goodell has spoken, which is never good for an NFL player. Because of their participation in “bountygate,” the NFL commissioner suspended Jonathan Vilma (entire season), Anthony Hargrove (8 games), Will Smith (4 games) Scott Fujita (3 games). And what was their infraction? They participated in a program, along with their coaches, that provided big dollars for vicious hits on the playing field, especially those leading “‘knockout’ or ‘cart-off’ hits.”

While others questioned the NFL’s commitment to safety, calling the punishments excessive, Roger Goodell justified suspensions as part of league’s commitment to root out unnecessary violence and protect its players: “It is the obligation of everyone, including the players on the field, to ensure that rules designed to promote player safety, fair play, and the integrity of the game are adhered to and effectively and consistently enforced. Respect for the men that play the game starts with the way players conduct themselves with each other on the field.” Linking the punishment to its effort to promote “safety, fair play and integrity,” Goodell seems to have concluded that encouraging on-the-field violence with financial incentives is counter to not just the NFL but the morals and values of society.

While drawing a wide range of opinions as to whether the “punishment fit the crime,” there seems to be agreement about the evils of a bounty system. According to Bill Plaschke, “The integrity of this country’s most popular sports league has been battered, and its commitment to safety bloodied, with the NFL’s report…that the New Orleans Saints spent three years operating a management-approved bounty pool that paid big money for inflicting injury.”

Similarly Jeff Schultz positioned “bountygate” in the context of morals and values “We’ve addressed this before: Anybody who trivializes the bounty program with comments like, ‘Everybody does it’ (not true) or the NFL loves violence (true, but they don’t love concussions and torn ligaments) is missing the point. There’s a difference between rewarding an athlete for an unscripted play and a premeditated assault. Payments for ‘cart-offs’ aren’t acceptable. We’re taking about people’s livelihoods. And lives.”

For them, Roger Goodell needed to send a message, one made clear that the league would not tolerate any efforts to reward and encourage on-the-field violence.

These suspensions have made clear that “bounties” have no place within football. But as the NFL’s crackdown on paid smackdowns takes hold, what about the bounty system that exists throughout our culture? If encouraging violence with financial incentives, if promises of cash and fame are unacceptable within football, can we say the same about the criminal justice system? If risking people’s lives and potentially destroying their careers violates the values of sport, can we not agree that it is also antithetical to justice and democracy?

If encouraging violence with financial incentives, if promises of cash and fame are unacceptable within football, can we say the same about the criminal justice system?

What is bad for football is surely bad for a system committed to justice and equal protection under the law. And yet ours is a criminal justice system that rewards officers for arrests and tickets, that provides financial incentives for the “war on drugs”, that encourages racial profiling and “stop and frisk” programs.

Continue reading @ NFL Bounties and the Criminal Justice System: Not So Different? – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY.

NO WAY OUT: Mother Jailed for ‘Stealing’ Child’s Education – News & Views – EBONY


Mother Jailed for ‘Stealing’ Child’s Education

The Tanya McDowell case is (yet another) heartbreaking example of the country’s failure to educate its youth

By David Leonard Writer

Tanya McDowell has joined the ranks of millions of people, mostly of color, facing incarceration. In April 2011, McDowell was arrested and charged with larceny for allegedly enrolling her 6-year old child in a Norwalk, Connecticut elementary school instead of the required Bridgeport school associated with her “residence” (she was reportedly homeless at the time).

Less than a year later, McDowell entered an Alford Plea, which is not an admission of guilt but rather an acceptance that the state has sufficient evidence to make its case. In exchange for her plea as well as a guilty plea stemming from a drug case, the court sentenced McDowell to 12 years in prison with the possibility of release after 5 years.

The media response has emphasized how her sentence reflects punishment for her “stealing of an education,” worth over 15,000 dollars as well as a consequence of the narcotics arrest. Subsequent to her arrest for educational larceny, McDowell allegedly sold drugs to an undercover officer on three separate occasions. While the timing of this arrest was questionable (her attorney at the time described the investigation that led to the drug charges as “‘retaliatory’ because the community was embarrassed by McDowell’s April 14 arrest for allegedly sending her son, A.J., to Norwalk’s Brookside Elementary School while they lived in Bridgeport), the efforts to paint her as a bad parent, as a criminal, as an unredeemable person is further revealing. Upon her arrest, Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia scoffed at those who represented McDowell as a victim: “This is not a poor, picked-upon homeless person. This is an ex-con, and somehow the city of Norwalk is made into the ogre,” he noted. “She has a checkered past at best … This woman is not a victim.”

Her subsequent arrest has been used to further substantiate these claims, justifying the initial charges and the subsequent sentence of 12 years. The conflating of these cases (beyond their simultaneously adjudication) points to the ways that the drug case has obscured the horrible injustice of the wrongful enrollment arrest. It would be a mistake and a further miscarriage of justice to excuse the criminalization of her decision to enroll her child at a school that provided better services, a better education, and a better future for her child by referencing her drug arrest.

She was forced to choose between terrible schools and violating the law so that her child could receive a quality education. Fordham University professor Mark Naison says “If there were enough good schools around so that any school you chose would be acceptable, and if there were enough decent paying jobs to keep your head above water through legal work, that would be one thing. But what if NEITHER of those things were true. What are you supposed to do? Let your child go hungry to a terrible school.” Even so, she became the first person in the history of Connecticut to be prosecuted for enrolling a child out-of-district, even though experts claim it to be a common practice.

She was forced to choose between terrible schools and violating the law so that her child could receive a quality education.

McDowell isn’t the first Black woman to face criminal prosecution and jail for enrolling her children out-of district. In Akron, Kelley Williams-Bolar was charged and served 10 days in jail for enrolling her two daughters at a Copley Fairlawn school even though they should have attended an Akron school. Her decision was easy to understand given that Copley-Fairlawn School District met 26 out 26 standards set up the Ohio Department of Education, whereas Akron City School District met only 4 of these same standards. Graduation rates were equally disparate with almost 98% of students graduating from Copley-Fairlawn compared to 75% within Akron City. Williams-Bolar, like McDowell, sought to challenge the inequity and segregation that defines America’s school system, and thus faced the sanctions and condemnation from a system that mandated that she stay in her place.

McDowell’s incarceration on drug charges reflects a willingness to wage the war on drugs with the greatest force and consequence against communities of color. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Latinas are 1.6 times and Black women are 3.8 more times more likely to be sent to prison than White women despite similar rates of usage and distribution. McDowell is indicative of the consequences of a racialized war on drugs. It reflects the pipeline from failed schools to prisons; it reflects an effort to incarcerate those who challenge this process.

Yet, the attempts, whether from the criminal justice system, the media, or the broader community to justify her criminalization and ultimate incarceration by linking the drug charges with the larceny charges is both troubling and without basis. The state prosecuted her before any drug charges so the injustice of her arrest cannot take cover from a subsequent arrest.

Continue reading @ NO WAY OUT: Mother Jailed for ‘Stealing’ Child’s Education – News & Views – EBONY.