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Search and Seizure presentation switches focus to alcohol policy

Published: November 21, 2008
Section: Front Page


SEARCH AND SEIZURE: Students, adminstrators, and law enforcement described students’ search and seizure rights before talk turned to alcohol policy.<br /><br /><i>PHOTO BY Natasha Rubin/The Hoot</i>

SEARCH AND SEIZURE: Students, adminstrators, and law enforcement described students’ search and seizure rights before talk turned to alcohol policy.

PHOTO BY Natasha Rubin/The Hoot

The highly publicized Search and Seizure Forum, sponsored by the Brandeis Advocates and the Union Office of Student Rights and Advocacy (OSRA), veered off topic as students expressed more concerns about their rights concerning alcohol and marijuana consumption.

OSRA member and Class of 2011 Senator Lev Hirschorn, who helped coordinate the forum held Wednesday night, said that the forum organizers chose the subject because of students’ ignorance about it.

“When students see people in uniform, they think they should do whatever the officer says,” Hirschorn said. “We just want to ensure that everyone knows their rights.”

Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan said in an interview that he agreed that knowing one’s rights is important, saying that it’s “like anything else involving law enforcement.”

Callahan also said in an interview before the forum that in his 30 years working at the university, there have only been a handful of cases of search and seizure involving Brandies students and no search and seizure related complaints.

“It doesn’t really happen,” he said. “This forum was spawned more out of fear than a specific incident. Students shouldn’t be afraid of Public Safety.”

Callahan was one of six speakers at the forum on Wednesday. Other speakers included Associate Dean of Student Life Maggie Balch, and Seth Shapiro ’09 of the Advocates, along with various members of Waltham law enforcement.

While the conversation about student rights was minimal, Callahan urged students to consult their Rights and Responsibilities handbooks, saying that “it’s the bible of the university.”

While the forum began with short presentations about search and seizure on campus, the question and answer session quickly changed the subject to alcohol consumption.

One student questioned whether or not students who call Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCO) for emergencies involving alcohol abuse would be punished by the university, saying that punishment for alcohol consumption would deter students from calling for the help that they need.

Balch replied that any student transported for reasons related to alcohol sees a dean in the Office of Student Life, adding that the measure is less to punish students than to educate them and ensure that they are acting responsibly.

“We were all in college,” she said. “We know what goes on on-campus. To be perfectly honest I could care less if you’re 18 and you consume alcohol, what I care about is if it’s a good choice for you, your roommate, your suite-mate or the community.”

Students at the forum also wondered if Massachusetts’ decriminalization of marijuana would affect university policy.

While Callahan said that the university would have to reassess its’ policy for the spring semester, when the state’s decriminalization would be implemented, he reminded students that possession of marijuana is still illegal, and that regardless of the legal status of marijuana, Brandeis is a private university and can create and enforce whatever policy it feels is best.Balch reminded students that smoking of any sort is not allowed inside or within 15 feet of any campus buildings.

She also said that she was disappointed with the number of covered smoke detectors that were discovered during Residence Life’s routine fire safety checks.

In Rosenthal Quad alone, Callahan said, 23 covered smoke detectors were discovered.

“There’s a whole lot of people who would have died if there was a fire in that residence hall,” Callahan said.

“Fires are especially common this time of year, we don’t need a tragedy. Students need to be responsible and uncover their smoke detectors.”The university is charged a $1,000 fine per covered smoke detector.

“We’re already in an economic crisis—that’s a big hit to us. I don’t know where that money’s going to come from,” Callahan said. “And that’s only one quad.”