Editorial | Jan. 12

Editorial: Use of un-prescribed stimulants violates academic regulations

When prescribed, psychostimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin can play an important role in aiding students who suffer from the academic difficulties caused by ADD and ADHD. However, given the fact that these drugs have a high capacity for abuse as illegitimate academic aids, the Editorial Board believes that “Rights, Rules, Responsibilities” must be amended to reflect that students who use un-prescribed psychostimulants in an attempt to gain an unfair academic advantage should be regarded as having violated RRR’s academic regulations in addition to its drug policy.

It is no secret that class work can be stressful, difficult and demanding, especially during exam times, but the University is especially dedicated to maintaining certain rules and requirements to ensure that academic work is carried out fairly and productively by everyone. Violations of these academic regulations currently include plagiarism, using false data and unauthorized multiple submissions because these behaviors subvert the universal bounds within which everyone can, and is expected to, complete their work. Professors also often impose rules regarding the use of calculators and class notes in order to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity when completing an assignment. Princeton has an obligation to make its best effort to impose an academically level playing field, and the abuse of un-prescribed stimulants interferes with this effort.

Psychostimulants may be used in an attempt to gain an unfair academic advantage. The Board recognizes that these drugs may also be legitimately used in other contexts by students with attention deficit disorders. However, when students use un-prescribed psychostimulants in order to enhance concentration, energy or stamina in the context of completing any academic work, this should be considered cheating, just as taking extra time on a timed take-home exam is considered cheating. Both of these infractions violate students’ and professors’ expectations that assignments are completed under conditions that are specifically and equally provided. The Board recognizes that these drugs do not make individuals more intelligent, but insofar as they may facilitate concentration and certain students have continuously used them because they have found them to aid in concentrating, they provide certain students with an unfair advantage.

Use of un-prescribed psychostimulants is unlike other study aids, such as caffeine, and is deserving of special scrutiny. All students can drink caffeine (or another legally available stimulant if they are allergic). Those who choose to abstain from this activity presumably do so because it is not in their self-interest. Not all students, however, are willing to violate the law, and thus these psychostimulants uniquely promote academic inequality across students and deserve to be considered academic infractions.

The Board recognizes that this policy would face enforcement issues. We would not be comfortable with the University employing drug tests in order to test for the use of un-prescribed psychostimulants, but we believe that the presence of multiple, reliable witnesses could be used as evidence in this kind of case. We further recognize that a host of drugs have the potential to serve as study aids, and the University must be careful not to craft a policy that would simply cause students to shy away from certain drugs and toward others. This policy may also touch on students’ privacy concerns as they relate to the confidentiality of medical information.

It is worth noting that there would be some precedent for this policy. In September 2011, Duke University implemented similar measures to consider un-prescribed drug use cheating in addition to a violation of the drug policy.

The two committees charged with upholding academic regulations at the University are the Undergraduate Honor Committee and the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline, and the Board suggests that both bodies make efforts to officially address the un-prescribed use of psychostimulants as academic violations in their respective jurisdictions.

By categorizing the use of un-prescribed psychostimulants as cheating, the University would be able to take a small step toward discouraging the illegitimate use of such drugs and to ensure a level academic playing field.

Abstaining: Eve Levin

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