Drug-testing kits may form part of Sheffield Students’ Union plan to tackle illegal substances

22 March 2018

Drug-testing kits could be considered as part of the University of Sheffield Student Council’s plans to stop illegal substances being taken at the Students’ Union.

The council were due to talk about the updating the policy tonight, 22 March 2018, but it has been postponed due to a late amendment.

Kieran Maxwell, who is proposing the changes, stopped short of stating that drug-testing kits have been considered but suggested that it was an option they may explore in the future.

He said: “Our aim is to ensure that we fully comply with the law and our licensing commitments, whilst prioritising student safety.”

The motion that will be brought to council also suggests that Sheffield Students’ Union would adopt a Zero Tolerance approach to drugs at their events while opposing the harsh criminalisation of those taking illegal substances.

Dorothy Hakim, Economics Councillor and a Mental Health Matters representative, said: “In an ideal world, I would love if we had kits in SU bathrooms or at least at events.”

She continued: “It’s something that the SU officers have been working on for a while now and this is the first major policy, I think, this academic year regarding drugs. But it’s very hard for our SU: I oppose the government criminalisation because it doesn’t help save lives. But the SU has to make sure it is on the right side of the law.”

The University has put drugs in the spotlight since 22-year-old maths student Joanna Burns died after taking ecstasy on 6 June 2017.

Changes have been made to prevent further tragedies, such as using sniffer dogs at the Tuesday Club events, a policy that has been in place over the last academic year.

Council Member Jack Sheridan said: We employed sniffer dogs at the SU as a result of a girl that died a few years ago in order for us to keep our licence.”

He added: “There is only one sniffer dog and it is only used twice a year, usually once per semester. I don’t think it is actively used to catch students out but rather to make students aware that the SU is required to follow the law as it’s written, regardless of what our policy is.”

This change comes at a time where Sheffield has the highest rate drug deaths compared to anywhere else in the Yorkshire and Humber region, based on Public Health England statistics.


Written by Harvey Lewis

First year journalism undergraduate student at the University of Sheffield.

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