Special Report

Aztec Justice

At San Diego State, the college president has done the right thing.

By 5.13.08

Send to Kindle

"A sad commentary is that when one of these individuals was arrested, he inquired as to whether or not his arrest and incarceration would have an effect on his becoming a federal law enforcement officer," reported the DEA's Ralph Partridge, describing one of the 96 arrestees in the recent San Diego State University drug sweep.

It is a sad commentary on many aspects of higher ed, and it gets sadder. Two students have died of drug overdoses on SDSU's campus in the past year. The DEA was surprised by the extent of the campus drug ring, which is believed to have a direct connection through a Pomona gang member and SDSU health-sciences student to Tijuana's brutal Arellano-Felix cartel.

In other words, this wasn't a few neo-hippie tokers mellowing out in an off-campus garret. The DEA discovered organized drug sales operating out of seven fraternities; in some of them, "most" of the fraternity members were aware of the ongoing sales. There was a major health and security problem at SDSU. It's a little difficult to study to become, say, a federal law enforcement officer when you're coked to the gills and baked out of your gourd, text-messaging your suppliers and customers, while your frathouse maintains a small arsenal to protect its stash, and co-eds are OD'ing in the basements.

There are plenty of villains in this story but one hero stands out -- a college president who had the rare good judgment to do something about it. Though encomiums in The American Spectator probably don't help a college president's esteem among his colleagues, SDSU's president Stephen Weber deserves a good word for doing the right thing and allowing the DEA to investigate the problem:

Weber, the university's president, said he did not hesitate to allow undercover officers on campus, even if that decision sparked ire. [Earlier versions of the story quoted Weber as specifying faculty ire.]

"We did the right thing," he said. "I think, frankly, more universities should step up and take these kinds of actions."


Alas, they won't.

UNIVERSITIES TODAY BUILD mushy cocoons around their students to insulate them from the consequences of their actions. They throw contraceptives at entering freshmen like latex confetti, and then subsidize abortion services if things don't work out. They police for political incorrectness, to defend students' sacred right not to be offended by opinions too far outside the campus political mainstream. Colleges regard their students both as fully enfranchised adults, encouraged to experiment with sex and (tacitly) drugs, and yet at the same time as children who need to be protected from those decisions. What exacerbates the problem is that this license is usually granted in a climate hostile not merely to traditional morality, but to the very concept of judgment and discrimination.

One of the most memorable passages of Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind dealt with Bloom's surprise that his colleague at the University of Chicago saw his professorial mission to be removing all the prejudices from his students. Bloom saw his role as instead inculcating the right prejudices in his students, moral lessons drawn from the best works civilization had to offer. An educated person should discriminate -- between good and evil, false and true, success and failure, for starters.

Otherwise, what's the point of all this expensive education? You can learn "who are you to judge me?" on daytime television, and skip the tuition.

Of course, most colleges don't trust their students of legal age to own, store, or carry firearms in accordance with their Second Amendment rights. And many of our elite universities take it on themselves to protect their charges from the terrible temptations posed by a campus ROTC program, or even in the case of Stanford Law or UC Santa Cruz, military recruiters.

As for the drug issue, my own alma mater led the charge in narco-hypocrisy. When the federal government decided that tax dollars would no longer be spent on financial aid to students convicted of drug possession, Yale jumped in to announce in 2002 that the university would make up the difference for any student who lost his financial aid for that reason, effectively subsidizing drug use and addiction. It's only equitable; rich students who aren't on financial aid don't jeopardize their education by getting busted for dope, why shouldn't poor kids have the same opportunity to get high without consequences?

SO IT'S NOT SURPRISING that the collegiate grievance brigade has already lit into President Weber for his shocking contention that the laws of the United States and the State of California still apply on a university campus. One lefty professor took a swing at him in the press:

"Now it's drugs," says Carole Kennedy, a political science professor who heads the faculty union. "Maybe next time it's about political dissent....What happens when you have students talking about federal income tax policy, saying they're not going to pay their taxes? Are they going to bring in IRS agents?"

Meanwhile a national drug-legalization group has staged protests of Weber's decision. I particularly liked this quote:
"I don't think that SDSU should have invited federal drug officials to come smear our campus and make it seem like it's a big drug land," said Randy Hencken, outgoing president of the student group, which supports the legalization of drugs and access to treatment. "I think that we needed to address this issue in-house."

Darn those nasty feds and their smears. They're the ones who made SDSU look like "a big drug land." The armed gang of pushers that overrun the schools' fraternities were just innocent victims. And now they'll never become federal law enforcement officers!

Which gets us back to consequences. As the Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady noted, there was another law enforcement career cut short recently. Mexico's chief of Federal Police was assassinated in his home, another victim of Mexico's drug cartels like the one supplying the SDSU operation. For colleges perpetually appalled by American "imperialism" and arrogance toward the third world, most seem uninterested in actually doing something about the impact of their students' drug habits abroad. College students' drug habits kill policemen and innocents in Mexico, and fund terrorists in Colombia and Peru and Afghanistan.

O'Grady and I disagree about what ought to be done. She favors decriminalization, whereas I believe the centuries-long long process of deciding which drugs are illegal was mostly a reasonable one, and our prejudices against certain drugs are part of that civilizational heritage that Professor Bloom wrote about. However, whatever you think about how the laws ought to be, here and now in the real world, drugs are illegal. Here and now in the real world, their use has corrosive and deadly consequences abroad. Here and now in the real world, using and selling cocaine is an act of supreme and dangerous arrogance.

Colleges won't let their own students carry guns. But without a strong moral (gasp!) stand against campus drug use and policies to back it up, they're giving guns to Mexico's cartels. Cheers to Stephen Weber for bucking the trend, and for exercising rare judgment and discrimination.

Clinton W. Taylor recently completed his Ph.D. at Stanford, writing his dissertation on international drug trafficking.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article