The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMASS) has banned all Electronic Dance Music events from its campus, in response to a surge in MDMA use in the United States.
MDMA, or ‘Molly’ as the drug is referred to in the US is being categorised as a health and safety risk to students and EDM is seen by College administrators as the reason for its rise in popularity.
In a campus wide email the UMASS interim Vice Chancellor, Enku Gelaye said, “We have grown even more concerned about the ongoing reports of overdoses…The Molly taking culture at these shows is real and now exceedingly dangerous to the health and safety of concert attendees.”
The response from students at UMASS has been strong, with a number of petitions being set up and a flash mob started outside the students’ union in protest. Many feel the majority are being punished for the actions of the few.
The UMASS Amherst student body petition reads, “UMASS Amherst Administration: Bring back EDM and agreement not to take illegal drugs.”
In the wake of the decision, Zachary Broughton, President of the Student Body, sent out a statement to fellow students in which he said, “[I] did not think it was the place of the University to dictate the behavior of students.”
In a press statement the University also said, “Our administrative and student leadership must also take responsibility for creating a safe and positive environment that encourages and cultivates good decision making.”
UMASS Amherst also attached a link to the American government drug abuse website “for more detailed information on Molly and its side effects.”
The website singles out, “urban gay and bisexual men using MDMA as part of a multiple-drug experience,” and also links MDMA use to the spread of HIV by stating that it, “may encourage unsafe sex, which is a risk factor for contracting or spreading HIV and hepatitis.”
The response on social media has been strong. Kaskade, one of Americas leading EDM DJ’s voiced his opinion on Twitter, “But, WHAT IF we switched out a few words in that statement? For instance, “Molly” with “Alcohol”, and “These shows” with “The NFL”?”
MDMA has been in contention in the US for some time now. Pop stars in the country, including Miley Cyrus and Jay-Z, have been criticised for referencing the drug in their songs.
The University of Manchester operates an exchange programme with UMASS Amherst in which students can study abroad for a semester at the University.
Jennifer Grant, a third year Philosophy Student at Manchester, spent a semester at UMASS in 2013.
“The drug culture was very different to Manchester. Much less common,” She told The Mancunion. “MDMA seemed to be the thing to take on a special occasion where as here in Manchester people take drugs much more often.”
However, Grant said she did see, “a direct correlation between EDM and Molly on campus because the events that came to the Mullins Centre [campus arena] were the ‘special occasions’ Molly was purchased for.”
The response from UMASS students is not one claiming that they want to ‘take illegal drugs’, but one concerning basic rights and liberties. The ability to make and be responsible for their own decisions.