21st Annual Building Bridges Conference Tackles War on Drugs this Saturday

Posted on March 2nd, 2016 by

Gustavus Adolphus College will host its 21st annual Building Bridges conference this Saturday, March 5. This year’s topic is “Silver or Lead: Wealth and Violence in the War on Drugs,” and will focus on two major aspects of the War on Drugs: the effects of the United States government’s massive spending on drug fighting efforts, and the role of the United States drug policy in the creation of international and domestic violence.

“The War on Drugs is a web, complex in its nature, and will require creative and nuanced solutions to the structural damage it has left in its wake over the last 40 years,” Building Bridges co-chair and Gustavus junior Esrea Perez-Bill said. “We hope the conference will lead the community in discussion by challenging the conventional understanding of the War on Drugs, offer new insights, and start us down the road to reform.”

Keynote speakers for this year’s conference include Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Mexican journalist and author, Anabel Hernández.

Ethan Nadelmann

Ethan Nadelmann

Nadelmann, who will speak at 9:15 a.m. in Christ Chapel, is widely regarded as the outstanding proponent of drug policy reform both in the United States and abroad, and is described by Rolling Stone as “the point man” for drug policy reform efforts and “the real drug czar.” His organization, the Drug Policy Alliance, promotes alternatives to the War on Drugs in the United States, and plays a pivotal role in most major drug policy reforms on issues including marijuana policy, sentencing, asset forfeiture, drug treatment, access to sterile syringes to reduce HIV/AIDS, and prevention of overdose fatalities. Nadelmann has also been a drug policy advisor for various U.S. government officials, has authored two books on criminal law enforcement, and has made media appearances on The Colbert Report, The O’Reilly Factor, and Real Time with Bill Maher.

Anabel Hernández

Anabel Hernández

Following a performance by the College’s social justice theatre troupe, I Am, We Are, Hernández will speak at 10:40 a.m. in Christ Chapel. Hernández has written extensively on political corruption, sexual exploitation, and drug cartels. In 2010, her book Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers was published, which detailed the Mexican government’s failure to stop the violence caused by warring drug cartels. She also writes about the relationship between Mexican and U.S. agents and the effects of this relationship on the Mexican Drug War. Hernández was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom Award in 2012, which is presented annually by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

The schedule for the conference is as follows:

8:30 a.m. | Registration
9 a.m. | Opening remarks by Co-Chairs
9:15 a.m. | Keynote Address: Ethan Nadelmann
10:10 a.m. | I Am, We Are Performance
10:40 a.m. | Keynote Address: Anabel Hernández
11:30 a.m. | Lunch Break
1 p.m. | Speaker Panel
2 – 5 p.m. | Workshop Sessions and Interpretive Walkthrough

  • Doris Marie Provine: “The Formulation of U.S. Drug Policy: Mapping the War on People”
  • Matthew Fogg: “Uneven Policing: Class, Race, and Law Enforcement”

5:00 p.m. | Interpretive Walkthrough


Tickets are free for all students, including Gustavus students, K-12 students, and other university students. General admission is $10. Solidarity tickets, which include an additional $5 donation to sustain the Building Bridges Conference, are available for $15. Tickets for the conference can be purchased at gustavustickets.com or by calling the Office of Marketing and Communication at 507-933-7520.

Building Bridges is an annual social justice conference that takes place on the Gustavus Campus every March. It is completely organized and executed by students. Each year, the conference co-chairs choose a new topic to address an especially relevant social issue. The conference works to increase awareness and action, promoting mutual respect and understanding about diversity. These aims are achieved through inspirational speakers supplemented by interactive workshops and action steps.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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