Students at the university are generally viewed as uncooperative when their basic constitutional rights, such as privacy and the right to remain silent, are asserted.
Constitutional rights as we know them are worryingly abridged the moment students set foot on campus. While we technically uphold human rights on university grounds, this academic institution is allowed to treat these rights in any way administrators deem fit because it is technically their property. The “right to remain silent,” for example, is qualified as “failure to cooperate” when a student refuses to answer questions posed by a Residential Security Officer for whatever reason. Oftentimes, the confrontational approach of an officer intimidates students enough that they forget they even have rights. The rules that universities subject students to do not accurately represent what the real world is like, despite the fact that college campuses like to pretend that they are a microcosm of the real world.
UCSD’s housing contract explicitly states that students are to permit university officials to enter the room, residence hall or apartment, for “inspection purposes” or for any reason “allowed by law.” However, students living on campus have experienced instances when this provision was abused. Community and residential security officers have entered rooms and treated students like suspects, regardless of whether there was reasonable cause for suspicion or not.
The notion that one is innocent until proven guilty seems to have no meaning on college campuses. While it is the duty of Community Service Officers and RSOs to ensure the safety of residents and enforce legal codes, they often generalize that all students are engaging in some form of illicit activity. A kickback at a college apartment does not, for example, signify that every individual living in that space is consuming alcohol when the RSO comes to “break it up.”
Yet bystanders and residents are often cited just for being there, even if they weren’t really involved in the so-called “illicit” activity. These encounters often lead to a “strongly suggested” search of a space and a “disruption of the peace,” particularly for uninvolved parties. Believe it or not, students do opt out of these activities for things like sleep and studying.
Furthermore, the wristbands that each UCSD resident was required to wear in the days leading up to the Sun God Festival and even after the festival show how university officials are nullifying students’ rights. It’s disturbing to think that during the one day a year the UCSD student body actually exhibits a sense of community, some students weren’t allowed to visit their friends in other colleges. The wristbands violate our privacy and further emphasize how the university treats students like criminals by dividing the colleges and segregating the community, ostensibly to keep everyone safe.
Requiring students to wear a neon-colored, itchy plastic bracelet everywhere just to be able to return home isn’t just a horrible fashion faux pas. They also force students to show where “they belong” during the Sun God Festival weekend. Yes, safety is extremely important, but this new rule only applied to the physical residential spaces — not, for example, the walkways in front of them. How did preventing UCSD students from hanging out with each other just because they live on different parts of campus or in San Diego make the festival any safer?
The Housing Contract students signed this year also did not have clauses requiring students to wear a wristband during the Sun God Festival weekend. And even if this was included in the contract, Housing, Dining and Hospitality and the administration should have to give some serious explanations about how this requirement would improve safety to the extent of justifying the violation of our state-affirmed constitutional right to free association.
District courts have heard several cases about law enforcement and public university officials wrongfully entering students’ on-campus residences and violating their right to privacy. Courts have ruled with mixed results. The Piazzola v. Watkins case summary specifically stated that “a reasonable right of inspection is necessary to the institution’s performance of that duty even though it may infringe on the outer boundaries of a dormitory student’s Fourth Amendment rights.”
However, it did concede that officers may not enter a dormitory room sans warrant or consent for the sole purpose of gathering criminal evidence. Although UCSD has a “Know Your Rights” campaign, the actions of the administration do not reflect this message. While universities should have the right to supersede federal law in emergencies and other abnormal cases, the rights of students should be fiercely upheld.