Over the past few months, bright and attention-grabbing advertisements have appeared all over Wellesley’s campus televisions. All the ads employ the same overused pun, “Let’s be blunt: edibles are no snack,” and fearmonger dining hall goers, citing statistics about marijuana overdoses, making edibles seem like a scourge that is violently attacking Wellesley students.
Instead of focusing on marijuana use, Wellesley’s Health Services could be working on student depression and anxiety here — which as was previously explored in another article about mental health services on campus, are incredibly widespread — and these issues aren’t being caused by an overconsumption of marijuana edibles.
According to a Residential Assistant (RA) from Munger Hall, Cal Bullitt, there were several hospitalizations for over-consumption of edibles last semester, so it is important to acknowledge that this can be a problem. However, this is the only major public relations campaign that health services has undertaken this semester. Why not create a similarly funny, informative and well-designed campaign to tell students how to sign up for a Stone Center appointment? Why not put ads up all over campus detailing how the new online sign-up system for mental health care works, and where to go if you need emergency help? The lack of access to mental health resources is an issue that many Wellesley students constantly bring up and is something that Wellesley College needs to focus on. A campaign to inform students about the Stone Center and its resources would actually help the greater Wellesley College community and would thus be a better and smarter use of the school’s resources.
The campaign’s focus on marijuana, rather than alcohol, is also problematic. Alcohol abuse is a serious issue on campus, and binge drinking at parties on and off is a worrying part of Wellesley culture. While the college marijuana campaign’s statements about the possibility for marijuana to be addictive are true, the detriments of alcohol addiction are well-documented, and alcohol addiction is considerably more frequent. Wellesley would be well-served by an informational campaign related to the practice of safe drinking.
The college’s campaign also fails to draw attention to one of the biggest marijuana-related issues on this campus: students smoking weed in their rooms, or too close to dorm buildings. Smoke can be dangerous for asthmatic students and students with allergies, and can be painful for students who are prone to migraines. Some residence life staff have begun to discuss “weed etiquette” in meetings, reminding students of the negative effect smoke and smell can have on their peers, and of the necessary distance to keep from buildings when smoking. Wellesley College should also consider taking this into account.
Wellesley’s Health Services may find the use of marijuana among the student body to be a problem, but it definitely is not the most dangerous. Rather than allotting both time and materials to a campaign that does not resonate with the student body, Health Services should work to ensure that all students are aware of the resources — whether that be the Stone Center or the online mental health care program or Health Services hours — available to them.
We have learned over and over again that young adults do not react well when told what not to do. Many people, for example, are finally realizing that promoting contraceptives rather than forcing abstinence is a smarter way to approach protecting sexually active teens. So why isn’t Wellesley’s Health Services dealing with students’ marijuana use in the same way?
The campaign even goes out of its way to inform students that most of their peers (60%), when surveyed, said they do not frequently smoke marijuana. What exactly are numbers like this supposed to accomplish? What if, instead, the college focused on other numbers, like the percentage of students in recovery from an eating disorder, or the percentage of students suffering from depression? Percentages like this are best employed to make vulnerable students understand they are not alone, and it seems in this case to be more of an attempt to ostracize marijuana users.
One student recently revealed that, as she has suddenly become uninsured, she now has to figure out how to get on the Wellesley Health Services insurance policy mid-semester. It seems to me that helping students learn how to navigate issues like this would be a far better use of the Health Services staff’s time and advertising budget than a bunch of puns about weed.
Wellesley’s Health Services needs to redefine its priorities and stop — whether that be permanently or temporarily — its anti-marijuana campaign so that more important issues like mental health and health insurance are addressed first.