Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Welcome to College Moment

It was mid-October of my freshmen year and my college career wasn't even two months old, but I thought I had a pretty good idea of how things worked on campus.

The Red Sox were in the middle of a playoff series with Tampa Bay (remember those days, Red Sox making the playoffs?) and it was a Thursday night at UNH. It may have been over three years ago, but I remember all the details so well. The Red Sox, trailing 7-0 in the eighth inning, would come back to win 8-7.

This turn of events called for celebration shots of cheap vodka chased by Diet Coke. I still cringe at the thought of the taste.

I was with my roommate and another friend from high school. "Let's go for a walk," one of us suggested. "Find a party or at least hit up DHOP." Ah, those were the days, thinking that we could just show up at a party or rely on entertainment by drunker kids downtown.

We threw the half-empty handle of vodka into my roommate's backpack and took off to see what we could find. I want to note, most of the vodka had been consumed on previous occasions; we had barely had a drink each before we left. But the smell of vodka lingered on our breath.

After a loop around campus we began to head back for Williamson. We had given up on finding a place to party, but we didn't really care. We took a shortcut, walking down a path near Stillings Dining Hall, one of the paved trails through the woods. We didn't even notice the cop approaching until he was right in front of us.

"You boys mind if I talk to you for a minute?" My heart sank, paranoia struck in. "Does he know I drank tonight? Can he smell my breath? I am going to end up on that busted at UNH SCAN-TV show?"
His flashlight shined brightly into our eyes and then the questioning set in. "Students like to drink beer in the woods here, is that what you're up to?" For what seemed like an eternity, but was probably more like 10 minutes he grilled us. He wanted to look in my friend's bag where the half-empty handle of vodka was hidden.

He accused my other friend's keychain of being a bowl and wanted to know if we had "dope" on us. The questions seemed never-ending, he said our eyes looked glossy and could smell beer on us. Clearly it became apparent that he was grasping for anything to nail us on. I could taste blood from biting the inside of my lip. I wondered if the cop noticed that.

He then said, "Just tell me what you were doing and I'll let you go. I just want to know." This was clearly a trick, but we held our ground. Eventually, he let us go, but warned that he "wouldn't be so easy on us next time."

Luckily for me there never has been a "next time," but I know for a fact dozens of other students may not have walked away from that incident.

The cop relentlessly tried to trick us into admitting things we did and did not do. He said he "knew what we did and lying would only make it worse," even going so far as to say that we wouldn't get in trouble if we came clean. That was his way of saying, "I have no proof of any wrong doings, let's see if I can trick these freshmen into a possibly false admission."

This makes me wonder, what are the cop's true priorities on campus and how many arrests are made with illegal tactics because students don't know their rights? It is not so much as getting away with a crime as knowing your rights defined by the Constitution. He tried to illegally search a bag, trick us into admitting things we didn't do and confuse us with the way he worded his questions.

The last thing you want is your name showing up in a police log when it could have been prevented. Obviously, the easiest way to prevent that is to not drink. But in reality, college students are going to drink, there is no denying that. It is a part of the college culture. If you do frequent parties or drink underage, be safe and smart about it, but most importantly learn your rights.

Stay classy, not UMassy.

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