Patrolling the front desks

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One drug and alcohol policy run by the desk receptionists in each residence hall includes random backpack checks for these substances. Photo by Cy Kondrick /

In Marquette folklore, an O’Donnell Hall resident once sneaked his girlfriend past the front desk by stuffing her in his hockey bag. Elsewhere, there have been tall tales of McCormick Hall keg parties.

It’s hard to say whether these legendary events ever occurred, but it’s fairly certain that desk receptionists could have prevented them.

As a part of the university’s code of conduct policy, desk receptionists are allowed to check students’ bags if they are suspicious of illegal substances being brought into the dormitories, according to Jim McMahon, assistant vice president and dean of residence life.

However, there must be “reasonable evidence” suggesting illegal smuggling before a DR checks a bag, McMahon said.

“Hall staff may request to look inside of a bag, however, they don’t do random bag checks,” McMahon said. “If someone comes in and staff sees some evidence of (alcohol), then they may ask to look inside the bag.”

For example, a “protruding rectangular shape” resembling a 12-pack would warrant a search, he said. Also, witnessing a resident stuffing their backpack with beers prior to entrance would give reason to check.

McMahon said a student’s privacy is a priority, so the evidence needs to be fairly obvious before asking a student to open his or her backpack.

“We do want students to feel like they have privacy,” McMahon said.  “That’s why it is important that we make sure there is good evidence before taking that next step.”

Tom Klind, a 2010 Marquette alumnus who worked as a resident assistant for three years, said while it is legal for DRs to check backpacks or bags, it rarely happened.

“In my three years as an RA in O’Donnell and McCabe, the DRs rarely — maybe two or three times —searched a bag,” Klind said. “Otherwise, they always called the RAs to do it, and it was only done a handful of times, maybe half a dozen or so.”

McMahon also mentioned students can refuse to have their backpacks searched. In that case, DRs have the right to refuse entrance to the dormitory, he said.

Klind dealt with this situation several times while an RA.

“In my experience, I’d had two or three instances in which a student refused to allow their bag to be searched,” Klind said. “The option is either allow your bag to be searched, or you cannot enter the building.  If the student refuses, and then leaves the building, it is the job of the DR or RA to call public safety.”

According to the university’s student handbook, there are instances in which students of the legal drinking age are allowed to bring alcohol into the dorms.

“Legal-age residents are permitted to possess and responsibly consume alcoholic beverages in their rooms or in the room of another legal-age resident as long as the doors to the rooms remain closed,” according to the handbook.

However, the handbook explicitly states that a resident who is of legal age may not provide alcohol to guests who are underage. If a resident wishes to bring in alcohol, hall staff may request to see identification before allowing entrance into the dorm.

The handbook states kegs and alcoholic punch are not allowed under any circumstances.

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