Reed Heroin Deaths Prompt Gov't Intervention

06/26/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Last week, the president of Reed College was given a warning from state officials: Stop drug use at the Portland, Ore. campus, or risk facing a loss of federal funding.

The message comes after a tumultuous few years for Reed, during which the small liberal arts school has seen two of its students succumb to heroin overdoses.

Reed President Colin Diver relayed the government's message to students Friday, a week before a notoriously drug-addled campus-wide celebration.

Diver wrote:

My message regarding drug use at Renn Fayre 2010 is very 
simple: do not use illegal drugs. That means no marijuana,
 hallucinogens, designer drugs, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, or
other illegal substances.

Since adopting the drug and alcohol implementation plan last
 year, we have consistently said that the plan applies throughout the
 year, and that no exception will be made for Renn Fayre. Recent
 events have given added urgency to this message. Based on ongoing criminal investigations, including 
conversations with current and former students and other sources,
 [state] officials have heard numerous allegations about drug use at 
Reed, and particularly at Renn Fayre.

According to Inside Higher Ed, the matter has sparked "intense debate" at the school:

While some say that Reed badly needs a change in culture on student tolerance of drugs, others say that Reed is a convenient scapegoat for law enforcement and is being portrayed and treated unfairly. Reed has long been respected for its commitment to the liberal arts and rigorous academics -- Renn Fayre in fact starts as seniors turn in their theses. But the college also had a countercultural (and druggie) reputation that, true or exaggerated, complicates its relationship with local officials.

The threat to Reed's funding applies to its student loan allotment, though Inside Higher Ed was unable to find any cases in history in which a college was denied money due to legal intervention.

Read more about Reed's situation, including some history on its drug issues, at Inside Higher Ed.

What do you think? Does Reed need help, or is it being made into an example?

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