The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

For all the administrative talk over the last few weeks encouraging students to "Do The Right Fling," University officials did not practice what they preached this weekend. In an effort to prevent underage students from bringing alcohol into University dorms, the administration made a fatal error: mishandling the entire process of searching students' bags as they entered. Not only did University officials fail to notify students of the searches before Fling but they also tolerated the searches being conducted in a horribly unreasonable and haphazard fashion. Police officers, who are government agents, may not, for example, search an individual without probable cause -- but Penn is not a government agent, nor any other type of public institution. Similar logic supports other private universities' policies banning alcohol in their dorms at all times. Where University President Judith Rodin, Provost Robert Barchi and other administrators are at fault, however, is in not explicitly communicating that bag searches would occur in dorms. All sorts of communication was flying around campus in the days leading up to Fling but none of that dialogue mentioned bag searches. Last Wednesday, for instance, Student Life Director Fran Walker sent an e-mail message to students highlighting several new non-alcoholic events added to Fling weekend. And College junior Bryan Grossman, one of Fling's coordinators, sent out an e-mail message emphasizing the weekend's policies -- both new and old, alcohol- and non-alcohol-related. No containers would be allowed in the Quad, he wrote, and security guards would be checking bags. But nowhere among the nine policies listed did Grossman ever alert students to the fact that bag searches would occur at other dorms. University officials themselves also failed to publicize the policy. Despite extensive press coverage of the alcohol task force's meetings last week, Barchi and Rodin never gave even the slightest indication that bag searches would occur. When the administration finally informed students of the policy via e-mail, Fling was already well underway. In an e-mail message to residents of Hamilton College House Saturday morning, House Dean Roberta Stack said she had only received an announcement regarding the policy late Friday night. The announcement Stack forwarded came from Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, the vice provost for University Life. In the message, the administration for the first time publicized the bag search policy -- despite Fling being well past half over. Given such suspicious circumstances, one can not help wondering what motivated the administration's actions. Did administrators not publicize the policy because they hoped to catch as many students off guard as possible? Or did they not have their act together for one of the most important weekends of the year? Whatever the reasoning behind the lack of communication, the University botched the bag search policy. What could have served as a preventive measure -- deterring underage students who might have tried to bring alcohol into their dorms -- became a punitive measure, busting students who did not know any better. Making such questionable communication even worse was the haphazard way in which students were confronted with the policy. While searches were occurring regularly at some dorms, such as the Quad and the three high rises, other dorms went search-free. Security guards also seemed to randomly target certain students. In what seems like some sort of alcohol profiling, many students passed through gates without a search, yet others had to open up all their belongings. Even worse, the guards conducting the searches were often blatantly rude. One female student bringing alcohol into Hamilton College House was stopped by a guard and asked for identification. The student, a senior who turned 21 in January, handed her ID to the guard, who responded, "You're barely 21." Shocked at such an absurd judgment and ridiculous logic, the student allowed the guard to see how much alcohol she had -- but she felt the guard would not let her through no matter how little alcohol she had. Finally, the guard told her, "I guess if that's all you have, it's OK." What is not OK is such treatment towards students, both on the part of security guards and on the part of administrators. If the administration hopes to work with students in devising new alcohol policies, it must work with them, not against them.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.