Dear friends,

We at the Drug Reform Coordination Network are writing
today to ask you to take two short minutes to raise your
voice to Congress on an issue of great importance. You may
already know that the Higher Education Act of 1998,
reauthorizing all federal student aid programs, included an
unfortunate provision, first gone into effect this school
year, that delays or denies all federal financial aid
eligibility for any drug conviction, no matter how minor.

The current issue of Rolling Stone magazine features
"Students vs. the Drug War," their second article covering
the DRCNet- and SSDP-led student campaign to overturn this
law. Over 8,000 students have lost aid under the HEA drug
provision, and newly-tightened regulations threaten to
affect tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of students as
soon as next year. The student-led campaign has been
coordinated through our online petition site at
http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com on the web.

This Wednesday, February 28th, 2001, Rep. Barney Frank (D-
MA) will reintroduce legislation to repeal the HEA drug
provision once and for all. Rep. Frank will help launch a
new, expanded effort with a press conference featuring
supportive members of Congress, national educational and
financial aid groups and student activists who have helped
secure resolutions from over 70 student governments and
national organizations calling for the law's repeal.
Please visit http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to ask your
representatives in Congress and the President to support
the Frank bill.

Regardless of how you feel about drugs or the drug laws, we
hope you'll agree that cutting off access to educational
opportunity will be counterproductive and detrimental to
the future of tens of thousands of young people and to our
nation as a whole, and is an unnecessary and vindictive
second punishment leveled against people who have already
paid whatever price the criminal justice system demands.

And regardless of whether you are a progressive who
believes in government-funded education, or a libertarian
who would rather see the government get out of both drugs
and education, we hope you'll agree that young people whose
families have paid taxes for all their lives should not be
discriminated against in the existing system, just because
they got a drug conviction and their parents aren't rich
enough to send them to school without financial assistance.

So, please fill out our online petition calling on Congress
to enact the Frank bill -- identical to H.R. 1053 from the
last Congress -- to repeal the HEA drug provision and
restore judge's discretion. Point your browser to
http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to sign the petition and
learn more about the HEA drug provision and how and why
students and a wide range of national organizations,
including the ACLU, NAACP and the United States Students
Association, are organizing to oppose it. Our petition
will send a letter originating from your own e-mail
address, and targeted directly to YOUR U.S. Representative,
two Senators and the President. Again, the site is:

http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com

Don't let the war on drugs become a war on education! Sign
the petition, and then take a minute to visit the "Tell
Your Friends" page on RaiseYourVoice or to forward this or
your own note to your friends and to appropriate mailing
lists and forums. When you're done, please call the
Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, ask to be
connected to your Representative's office (they can help
you figure out who your rep is if you don't already know),
and ask him or her to cosponsor the Frank bill to repeal
the Higher Education Act drug provision, identical to last
Congress' H.R. 1053.

Last but not least, students and educators please visit
http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com to request an information
packet on how to get involved in the campaign. We need
your help!

A few technical notes on our petition: Due to a temporary
technical limitation (to be resolved within two weeks from
now), the system will only mail to Representatives and
Senators who have e-mail addresses. If you are from a
district or state represented by one or more officials
without e-mail addresses, we will write back to you later
to send you to an identical petition that will fax to the
ones who were missing. Also, when you are done sending
your letter, please use the tell-a-friend form linked to
from the side and top of our web site, not the one that
shows up in the middle of the screen at the end. (That
will also be fixed within two weeks.)

Here are some reasons the HEA drug provision is wrong:

* Judges already have the power to rescind financial aid
eligibility as individual cases warrant. The HEA drug
provision removes that discretion.

* The vast majority of Americans convicted of a drug
offense are convicted of nonviolent, low-level possession.

* The HEA drug provision represents a penalty levied only
on the poor and the working class; wealthier students will
not have the doors of college closed to them for want of
financial aid.

* The HEA drug provision will also have a disparate impact
on different races. African Americans, for example, who
comprise 13% of the population and 13% of all drug users,
account for more than 55% of those convicted of drug
charges.

* No other class of offense carries automatic loss of
financial aid eligibility.

* Access to a college education is the surest route to the
mainstream economy and a crime-free life.

For further information on the HEA reform campaign, visit
http://www.RaiseYourVoice.com -- and visit DRCNet's web
site at http://www.drcnet.org for much more information on
the impact of the drug war on society. Visit
http://www.ssdp.org for information about Students for
Sensible Drug Policy.

Thank you for taking a stand,

David Borden, Executive Director, DRCNet
Steven Silverman & Chris Evans, DRCNet Campus Coordinators
Shawn Heller, Students for Sensible Drug Policy