Psychedelic club educates UVM students


Sophia Balunek

Psychedelic Science club co-president Micah Bernat, a sophomore, president Henry Schaer, a senior, and co-president Zach Grinspoon, a sophomore (left to right) pose before a club meeting April 14.

UVM’s newly-recognized Psychedelic Science Club offers students a space to learn about the different effects of substances in a judgment-free zone, said Zach Grinspoon, club co-founder and sophomore.

Grinspoon worked with sophomore Micah Bernat and senior Henry Schaer to create PSC. The club covers topics such as psychedelics, the science behind them and mental health as it pertains to drugs, according to their Instagram.

SGA officially recognized the club Feb. 1, according to an April 12 email from senior Ann Wong, chair of the SGA Club Affairs Committee.

“Most people our age aren’t super educated on the specific effects of what drugs are doing to [our] bodies,” Schaer said. “None of us want to stigmatize any sort of particular drug use, but we want to provide that information because I think education is the best form of safety.”

Tom Fontana, UVM’s alcohol, cannabis and other drugs initiatives manager at the Center for Health and Wellbeing, attended the club’s first harm reduction meeting Feb. 17. Fontana has proven to be a great educational resource and friend to the club’s founders, Bernat said.

“We do routine harm reduction meetings, where we’ll talk about the risks and effects of opioids, cannabis, psychedelics [and] nicotine,” Grinspoon said. “So that if [students are] making a decision to take substances, they’re making an informed decision.”

Grinspoon took a philosophy of mind course with Professor Mark Moyer and afterward asked him to be the club’s faculty adviser, which he was happy to do, Moyer said.

Moyer thinks the club leaders do a great job helping people make informed decisions, he said.

“I’ve gone to one meeting, and it sounds pretty darn exciting,” Moyer said. “It is pretty ideal when you have students that find some topic that they’re really into, and they want to go off and even form their own club to do more studying.”

Initially, the club’s founders assigned articles for other members to read before the club met, but over time, PSC evolved to offer open forum style meetings with assigned readings not playing as prominent of a role, Schaer said.

“We’ve done book group meetings where we just laid out a bunch of books on the table and [had] people look around,” Bernat said. “Sometimes we do a bit of information presenting during the club [meeting] and sometimes we just kind of talk about more personal experiences.”

Grinspoon and Bernat hope to continue to foster a comfortable environment for their peers to learn and ask questions, Grinspoon said.

“We’re going to be doing a lot […] over the summer preparing for the fall,” Bernat said. “But how I see our role in the bigger picture is setting up a very solid scaffolding so that no matter who is in charge, they can continue […] trying to promote different voices.”

Schaer feels optimistic about the club’s future and grateful that discourse around substances is becoming less stigmatized, he said.

In the future, PSC plans on buying drug test kits students can use to ensure a drug isn’t laced, Schaer said.

He hopes UVM will implement permanent drug testing sites on campus.

The club meets every other Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Jeffords 127, Grinspoon said.