“Molly logic” misguided

By Brandon Sides

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University administrators recently cancelled September’s “Return to Fantazia” show. Promoters Mass Electronic Dance Music Community and NV Concepts intended for the show to be an annual Mullin’s Center event; however Interim Vice Chancellor Enku Gelaye cited concerns about a recent series of concert deaths related to a pure form of MDMA known as Molly. Over the course of this column, I will explain the University’s approach to similar health hazards, critique the school’s reactionary logic behind the decision to cancel Fantazia (which I refer to as “Molly Logic”) and provide defenses against potential criticisms of my stance on the issue.

Nicole Evangelista/Daily Collegian

The University sent an email to all students and published a press release explaining its reasoning behind the decision to cancel Fantazia. The release identifies the primary reason for the cancellation as “concerns about the health and safety of the campus community.” To support its primary reason, the release then mentions “several Molly-related deaths that have been associated with electronic dance parties at venues in New England and New York.”

Everyone agrees that we should take steps to preserve the health and safety of the UMass community. The University has recently begun several initiatives to manage other threats to the wellbeing of our community, but in dealing with Molly, the University has adopted a reactionary stance to the threat. To illustrate this point, we should examine similar instances of University threat management.

Tobacco threatens the health and safety of both the individual consumer and passers-by. The school rightly took proactive steps to eliminate this threat: it launched its tobacco-free campus initiative, began providing addiction services to tobacco users and discussed the issue in numerous faculty senate meetings . The initiative is proactive in nature; it acknowledges a current threat and takes steps to implement a sustainable, long-term fix to benefit the health and safety of our community.

Similar initiatives include the University’s efforts to prevent student alcohol abuse (via BASICS) and its efforts to foster a tight-knit community through the UMatter @ UMass campaign In both cases, threats existed: students harming themselves through overconsumption of alcohol and students feeling disempowered and isolated. In the case of BASICS, every first year student learns about alcohol through the mandatory MyStudentBody test. In the case of UMatter @ UMass, administrators educate residential life faculty and first years about bystander intervention. In both instances, program leaders intend to protect potential victims through education. The logic behind each program is proactive and longitudinal.

The Molly Logic that supports the cancellation of Fantazia is, in contrast to the logic that supports the aforementioned initiatives, reactionary and short-sighted. As in the other examples, a threat exists: students irresponsibly consume an often-mislabeled drug without much regard to their safety. We can agree that administrators should eliminate this threat, but the method in which it does so is crucial.

If we apply the Molly reasoning to similar examples of threats to UMass community wellbeing, then the resulting initiatives look questionable. Alcohol problem? Disband campus fraternities.

The “Molly Logic” differs in that it fails to tackle the root of the threat to community health. If the faculty senate were to adopt proactive and longitudinal reasoning, then some of these examples would follow: a mandatory online quiz on the health effects of MDMA, or perhaps simple education on the dangers of mixing various drugs.

At a recent off-campus electronic dance music concert that I attended, volunteers threw water bottles to (likely under the influence) attendees who were dancing nonstop. Doing so at Mullin’s Center EDM events would parallel the Sober Shuttle initiative: acknowledge that students experiment with drugs and attempt to prevent harm. Drunk students cannot safely drive themselves, and students under the influence of MDMA cannot dance without properly hydrating themselves.

I’d now like to dispel the most obvious criticisms that I will most likely be barraged with.

I am by no means advocating the use of MDMA. The drug is notoriously mislabeled and presents more danger than regulated drugs, whose ingredients a user can always verify. Because of its mislabeling and the lack of scientific literature about its health effects, Molly presents a threat to the wellbeing of the UMass community. I do not endorse the use of a possibly mislabeled and relatively unknown substance.

I also fully support the University’s aim to prevent threats to the health and safety of our community. It falls within administrators’ roles to identify threats and proactively eliminate them through sustainable initiatives. The abuse of MDMA certainly presents such a threat. Though I part ways with the University’s methods of handling this specific threat, I fully endorse and appreciate faculty attempts to protect its students.

To cancel a concert simply reacts to a threat and fails to eliminate it in the long term. Nobody who received reimbursement for their ticket is better educated about the threat of MDMA. Those who intended to take MDMA at Fantazia will take it another time. The threat to the community’s wellbeing still exists, unaffected by a reactionary and disappointing measure taken by UMass administrators.

Brandon Sides is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]