WKU desk clerks checking bags for booze

Nick Bratcher

A Housing and Residence Life policy is airing out all the dirty laundry at WKU.

The policy encourages desk clerks to ask students to open their bags, backpacks and even laundry baskets if the student is suspected of trying to take alcohol into a dorm.

HRL director Brian Kuster said the policy is in place to protect students and stop dangerous or bothersome behavior before it starts.

“If someone is drinking, there will be more behavioral issues than if they’re not,” Kuster said. “It’s the people that have 10 people in their room — taking shots — and they’re yelling and screaming.

“Those are the people we find out about and have to deal with.”

Chicago junior Aaron Gingerich said he was asked to open his bag by a desk clerk two years ago while entering Minton Hall.

“I don’t really like (checking bags) because I’ve had it happen to me before, and I’ve actually not had anything in there,” Gingerich said. “I think it’s kind of stupid that a desk clerk can check for alcohol and it’s not even a hall director or anything.”

Kuster said the policy would never be a problem if every student exercised good judgment when it comes to alcohol usage.

“I’d be silly if I thought we didn’t have alcohol on campus,” he said. “If someone’s in their room with the door shut, drinking a beer while they’re eating dinner, we’re never going to know about it.

“It’s the people that come in at 2 o’clock at night carrying their laundry basket when you know it’s not laundry.”

Deborah Wilkins, chief of staff and general counsel, said if a student doesn’t comply with a bag check, HRL staff can check their room for alcohol at any time as part of the housing agreement students sign to live in dorms.

“Once they take it in a room, the residence hall policies give the HRL staff the right to enter a room for a safety check,” she said. “At that point, they can look to see if there’s alcohol in there.”

The student will then be forced to dispose of any alcohol that is found and the incident will go on file in judicial affairs to keep track of repeat offenders.

If a pattern of problems develop, students could be forced to leave the dorms, Wilkins said.

Kuster said HRL has never had an issue reach that point.

“Quite honestly, we haven’t had a problem where someone has said no or they won’t leave and then come back after they’ve gotten rid of it,” he said.

However, Gingerich said bag checking remains bothersome and pointless.

“If kids want to get alcohol into the dorms, they’re going to get it in some way or another,” he said. “A bag check isn’t going to stop that.”

Ultimately, Kuster said the policy should only affect a small percentage of students on campus because of the legal drinking age of 21. Additionally, the new apartments on Kentucky Street will accommodate older students in the future.

“We have very few students on campus that are 21 or over,” he said. “Half of our students are first-year students and the next 25 percent are sophomores.

“We’re building apartments down on Kentucky Street. Students that live there — if they’re 21 or over — will be allowed to have alcohol.”