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Marijuana video angers prof; student storms out

Nov. 21, 1997

By Cindy Szelag

Staff Writer for The Baylor Lariat

A Baylor student left her History of Medicine class Tuesday after a disagreement with her professor over a presentation.

Susan Roth, a Morrison, Colo., senior, said she left the classroom after her professor, Dr. J.R. Schofield, told her to turn off a video she was showing for her presentation on the medical uses of marijuana.

Schofield, university consultant on premedical education, visiting distinguished professor of the history of medicine and Roth's instructor, would not talk about the subject when The Baylor Lariat reached him at his home on Thursday.

Schofield said he could be reached in his office on Monday and did not think it was necessary to comment at this time.

Roth said Schofield knew about her topic ahead of time and did not say anything to her before her presentation.

'I turned it into him two weeks ahead of time so he could read it for content,' Roth said.

Roth said the syllabus for the class stated the presentations were to be eight to 10 minutes long, but Schofield told her she could only talk for three minutes.

'As he was introducing me, he said, 'Susan has something to say to us about medical marijuana, although we don't know how much actual field research she's done on the subject,' or something to that matter,' Roth said.

Roth said when she got up to make her presentation, she was nervous because her amount of time had been cut down.

Dr. David E. Pennington, professor of chemistry and master teacher, said Schofield's syllabus stated the presentations were to be three to four minutes long.

Joel Underwood, a New London senior who is also in the class, said the syllabus stated the presentations were to be three to five minutes long.

Roth said Schofield told her that before she could begin, she had to make a statement warning the students about the content of her presentation.

'So I got in front of the class and I said, 'This is a plant that has been used for thousands of years. The reason why you all think the way you do about this plant is because there is a drug war going on. But marijuana has been found to be useful in many cases, including cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, and on and on,'' Roth said. 'And I said, 'Now, this medication is not for every person. This needs to be monitored by a physician. I don't think that people should just run out and go smoke. This is something that needs to be prescribed by your physician.'

Underwood said when Roth got up to give her presentation, her 'warning' consisted more of her political views on the legalization of marijuana than of the medical values of marijuana.

Roth said after her warning, she began to show a clip of a film that featured an ethnobotanist from Harvard University, the head of the medical department at the University of Arizona and a psychiatrist whose son suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been treated with marijuana.

'The film is called The Hemp Revolution, and can be rented by the general public at Hollywood Video,' Roth said. 'That is where I rented it from.'

During the clip of the film that Roth chose for her presentation the three men talked about the enormous amount of money spent by the United States on the war against marijuana, the failure of the drug prevention programs in schools and the number of deaths caused by other drugs such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, Roth said.

'Then it said that virtually nobody had died from using marijuana,' Roth said. 'At that point, he (Schofield) stood up and said, 'Turn the film off!'

'Then he turned to the class, and he said, 'If any of you all want to listen to these men, you can get out of my class now, and that includes you, Susan',' Roth said.

Underwood also said Schofield did not throw Roth out of class, but gave her the option of leaving.

'He got up and said that he didn't believe that her information was factual, and that if she believed the people on the video over him she could leave,' Underwood said.

Roth said she turned to the class and told her classmates if they wanted to know more about the subject, they could get in contact with her later for more information.

'And then I walked out the door and slammed it as hard as I could,' Roth said.

Pennington said he had talked to Schofield and the video Roth showed had not been pre-approved.

'The reaction was against the video, which was advocating the use of marijuana, which is illegal and against Christian principles,' Pennington said.

Pennington said Roth was allowed the full three to four minutes before the video was stopped.

Underwood also said the film referred more to the social uses of marijuana than the medical uses.

'On that video, there were several people of questionable character that said marijuana causes visions, a heightened sensory perception, and also leads to greater creativity,' Underwood said. 'Basically, the video was advocating the social use of marijuana. (Schofield) wasn't against the topic, but against her presenting her political views,' Underwood said.

The class spent more time discussing the issue after Roth left, although nothing was said about Roth herself, Underwood said.

'He (Schofield) said marijuana was good in the treatment of nausea from chemotherapy and radiation, and also was used in treating AIDS patients and glaucoma,' Underwood said.

Underwood said in these cases marijuana use is closely monitored by physicians.

'That's not what she was talking about,' Underwood said. 'She was talking about buying it on the street and smoking it.'

A. Elizabeth Vardaman, assistant dean for administration college of arts and sciences and associate director of the honors program, said the administration is hoping Roth and Schofield can resolve the situation without interference.

'The situation seems to be an academic issue and it is being resolved between the professor and the student,' Vardaman said. 'We hope that they will be able to work out whatever they need to work out.'

Roth said she called Schofield Tuesday night and set up an appointment with him at noon on Wednesday. At the meeting, Schofield told Roth she could continue in the class and take the final with the other students. Roth, however, said she would take the final, but would not return to class

'How could I walk back into that class after he told me to leave?'

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