Academics and Research

DU professor known for unusual courses now examining illegal drugs

Illegal drugs account for 8 percent of international trade. A drug dealer from Mexico recently landed on Forbes Magazine’s list of the richest people in the world.

Those are just two facts DU students will learn this spring from Arthur Gilbert, an associate professor in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies with a gift for creating distinctive courses.

This quarter, Gilbert is offering The Domestic and International Consequences of the Drug War to undergraduate and graduate students. The role, and impact, of drugs in international affairs is Gilbert’s primary focus.

“I’m doing something from a scholarly point of view because I’m neither a DEA agent or a recovering addict,” Gilbert says. “In fact, I tell students I have a non-addictive personality, which is why addiction fascinates me so much.”

Gilbert says students are deluged with information—and misinformation—their whole lives but rarely get an opportunity to study the business of illegal drugs and its impact on society from an international perspective.

Students also look at what Gilbert calls “a rational drug policy” and how it would be developed. He points out that the annual cost of the war on drugs makes it imperative that such a policy be created with involvement by many of the world’s leaders.

In addition, Gilbert believes the increasing number of high-profile clashes between drug lords and the Mexican government will force an examination of the drug war. The rising tensions in Mexico also are discussed in the course.

“I love exploring unusual approaches,” Gilbert says. “My first question is ‘what’s not being done?’ And that leads me to develop courses that will rattle students and make them think.”

Gilbert’s other offerings have included Godfathers, Goodfellas and Reservoir Dogs, a class in which gangster movies provide discussion topics— and a course that focused on contagious diseases.

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