Like many other students at Penn, I came back to campus 3 weeks ago with little to no knowledge of the newly instated policy that all “student group events” held on campus, off campus or at third-party venues must now be registered with the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives, regardless of whether or not alcohol is present. While I understand the need to register events that occur on campus, extending this policy to address events that occur off campus and at third-party venues is a gross invasion of privacy. It is a corruption of the values this "liberal" institution purports to protect.
Indeed, essentially everything about these policies is inconsistent with the values of a free society. Take the “event observers” for example. Penn is paying other adults $35 per hour — most likely graduate students as evidenced by an ad from the AOD itself — to “roam” residences “with a careful eye and ear for unregistered events” in order to ultimately “shut down and report unregistered events."
This, coupled with the fact that all events have to be registered with the University presents a grave invasion of privacy. I understand the need to ensure that students are safe. I also understand the administration’s interest in demonstrating their commitment to that end. But these pursuits do not in any way justify allowing school authorities to have jurisdiction over their students’ actions at private residences nor at “outside” or “third-party” venues.
Should students abide by the new policies, events with alcohol will now pose financial restrictions. The requirements that registered events must hire University-approved bartenders and security undoubtedly prove to be an obstacle for smaller groups. Not to mention the fact that all the groups with the means to do so will merely hold events at third-party venues far away from campus, squarely out of the jurisdiction of Penn police and “event observers” as well as squarely out of the financial reality of many students as they will be faced with entry and transportation fees.
All in all, the initial repercussions of these policies are already apparent to anyone who has found themselves at any off-campus gathering of more than five friends: an exorbitant number of cops show up decked out in bullet-proof vests — personally, I had about seven cops show up to shut down an event of about 30 people.
This entire situation is a flagrant abuse of power as well as a misuse of valuable resources.
Instead of putting time, energy and money into unlawfully controlling what their undergraduate population does when they are neither in class nor on Penn’s campus, why doesn’t the AOD turn to education initiatives? Tackling an issue like alcohol and drug abuse on campuses is a complex subject that must first be fought with education – NOT with the suppression of rights and overzealous policies that everyone will ignore.
I believe I stand with most of my peers when I call for the immediate termination of these policies.
MIRANDA RIBEIRO-VECINO is a College sophomore from Wynnewood, Pa., studying philosophy.
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