Students were asked to open their bags and empty any liquids they had upon entering several dining halls at the University of Connecticut on Friday.
Kirsten McLeod, a fourth-semester pathobiology major, said she was asked to dump out a bottle of water she had purchased before entering the Northwest dining unit.
“She [one of the assistant managers] asked to see inside my bag, so I showed her the full inside, then asked me to dump out my whole water bottle that I had purchased,” McLeod said.
Sam Levine, an eighth-semester chemical engineering major, posted pictures of students being searched as they entered the dining hall in the Buy or Sell UConn Tickets Facebook page with the caption “Is it really okay to search students as they walk into Northwest Dining Hall?”
Levine said he observed a group of students leaving the dining hall and many others being searched.
“I saw a couple of rowdy students leaving, the woman seen in my photos followed them to the door and immediately began searching every student entering the building indiscriminately,” Levine said.
Levine said he felt that the student body had a right to know what was going on.
“As soon as I got back home, I decided the student body needed to have a say in their own treatment, and so I posted photos to bring light to the issue,” Levine said.
Levine said he felt that searching students was a violation of their privacy.
“It didn’t look or feel right to me at all,” Levine said, “These students paid for an education and no student should have to stipulate in advance that searching their person without cause is unacceptable.”
UConn Spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said these searches were initiated due to students entering dining halls in an inebriated state on Friday.
“Several of our dining halls experienced issues Friday night with students who had attended off-campus gatherings and returned inebriated and/or carrying alcohol,” Reitz said.
There was a large off-campus party that led to several dining units having problems.
“Several dining halls on campus had similar problems, particularly those on the west side of campus closest to an off-campus area where a large party was taking place,” Reitz said, “Many of the guests at that party returned to campus to eat dinner, and those with open alcoholic containers were required to pour it out before they could enter.”
McLeod said she does not believe making students dispose of any kind of liquid they may have been carrying is an effective way to address this problem.
“Making people dump out their potential alcohol isn’t going to solve the problem of people coming into the dining hall drunk,” McLeod said, “It was a flawed decision in my opinion.”
McLeod said she would have been willing to assure the manager that she did not have alcohol so that she could have kept her drink.
“I would have been more than happy to let her smell it and make sure it wasn’t alcohol,” McLeod said.
Reitz said students are required to dispose of any alcohol they may be carrying before entering a dining hall.
“Alcohol is prohibited in UConn’s dining halls, so in most cases, dining hall staff required the students to pour out the alcohol or otherwise dispose of it before they could enter the dining area,” Reitz said.
UConn’s policy on alcohol in dining halls does not extend to making students pour out any liquids they have, Reitz said.
Many students questioned the legality of these actions in the comments section of the Buy or Sell post.
“I’m not sure if the dining halls have the right to search everyone’s bags,” McLeod said.
The searches and disposal of beverages were conducted in order to ensure that the University’s ban on alcohol in dining halls was followed, Reitz said.
“Those steps were taken to ensure the rules were followed and to continue the normal operation of the dining halls for all students,” Reitz said.
This type of situation with students bringing alcohol into the dining halls has happened occasionally in the past, Reitz said.
Dining Hall directors could have taken more serious action regarding any student who attempted to bring alcohol into the dining hall including notifying UCPD or Community Standards that the students were violating the policy, Reitz said.
“This approach resolved the situation in a way that allowed students to go in and use their dining plans while the facility’s regulations were still being observed,” Reitz said.