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Moravian College

Nick Heimbach

2008-2009 Honors Student

Name: Nick Heimbach
Honors in: Sociology
Hometown: Bethlehem, PA
Major(s): Political Science & Sociology

Title of project: America's Acid Trip: An Examination of the War on Drugs

Abstract or brief description: For decades the United States has championed a prohibitionist stance on illicit drugs and drug use in a policy known as the War on Drugs. The War is an unmitigated failure and has in many ways exacerbated the “drug problem” in terms of its economic, social, and human costs. This project seeks to understand the factors at work in the War’s utter failure. While such factors are numerous and complex, it appears that moralistic labeling, an incarceration addiction, draconian punishment, lack of rehabilitation, and the War’s own creation of artificially high prices of illicit substances have played a role. This project also attempts to understand why the War has continued despite its failure to reach its objectives, and the political expediency of the War is discussed as one among several components of such endurance.

How did you get interested in your topic? My adviser, Dr. Smolansky, and I are both very interested in studying the social construction of laws, the manner in which laws may impede social change, and matters of social justice. The War on Drugs was a logical subject for those interests, and something we both have to come to feel very passionate about. The topic itself actually was suggested by my brother Jon, who thought it would be something interesting to me.

Do you intend to research your topic further, if so, how? I may or may not do so. My work was far from comprehensive because there is just so much information out there and so much to cover. My project was limited by necessity to the federal level, and solely to the United States' domestic War on Drugs. THe War is being fought by the United States around the globe, and it would certainly be interesting to look into the impact of the War on other nations and cultures.

How did you benefit academically by conducting research/ participating in honors? I learned that I'm capable of a massive and prolonged research project, and that I can handle the pressure of a sustained, year-long effort. I'll be attending Harvard Law School next year, so the experience I gained with LexisNexis will also be very helpful.

How has the department (or faculty advisor) in which you studied prepared you for the future? Faculty from both the Political Science and Sociology department have been absolutely amazing throughout my time at Moravian. More than anything they have taught me to think critically and question constantly. They have given me the tools to be an active and engaged individual both academically and in community life. My Honors adviser, Dr. Bettie Smolansky, has been absolutely fantastic. She actually pushed off her retirement in order to remain my adviser for the Spring semester. She has taught me so much about research, writing, and finding creative ways to address issues that tend to pop up at the worst times. She had to work very hard to keep me (relatively) sane, and has shown me that sometimes taking a step back and laughing can make all the difference.

What advice do you have for other students interested in honors? Think very carefully about why you are interested in doing Honors. The program is not for everybody, and represents an absolutely massive commitment of both time and energy that will doubtlessly impact other aspects of your academic and social life at Moravian. If you decide to do Honors, carefully consider your topic, and find something that you are very interested in and about which you are highly passionate. You will burn yourself out if you have to work on an Honors project about which you care little. Most importantly, find other Honors students with whom to work on your project if you do go ahead with it. Having others who are in the same desperate race against time and in the same state of constant Honors-craziness makes all the difference.