Most Bowdoin students are accustomed to having Security check for violations of the College's alcohol policy. However, most of these checks are conducted on weekend nights at parties or large social gatherings where alcohol is being served.

One can imagine a Baxter House resident's surprise, then, when at 9:30 a.m. last Friday, he walked out of his bedroom and found officers searching his private common room for alcohol.

"Having that be the first thing you see was like, 'Woah, I didn't expect that to happen,'" said the student, who asked that his name not be used.

According to Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols, an officer was doing a "routine walk-through" of several student residences that morning. When he came to the student's room in Baxter, he found the door open and saw a 1.5-liter bottle of Kahlua Mudslide Mix?a mixture containing 12.5 percent alcohol by volume?sitting on a table in the common room.

The officer, who was new to the job, then went downstairs and called for backup. When another, more experienced officer arrived, the two returned to the room and found that the bottle of Kahlua had been placed underneath the table.

The officers then entered the room and "announced their presence," said Nichols. The student claimed he was watching television in the bedroom and did not hear them. His roommates, who said they had left the door open, had gone to breakfast.

At that point, it appears that one of the officers walked to the corner of the common room, where the residents had erected a bar. Residents say they believe the officer opened a partition hatch that was built into the counter and entered the bar area. A bottle of tequila was in a cubby on the inside of the bar.

The officers confiscated both the tequila?a 21st birthday gift to the student from his aunt?and the Kahlua, and then issued a citation for a violation of the college's alcohol policy.

The student claimed responsibility for the alcohol and said he expects to be reprimanded by the dean's office.

The incident did not sit well with the student's roommates, who felt as though Security violated their privacy.

"The whole situation is very upsetting," roommate Brandon Sparks '08 added.

Appendix C, Section A.11 of the Bowdoin Student Handbook stipulates that "before conducting a search, the security officer must have written permission from the director of residential life. The written permission authorizing the search shall state the reasons for the search, a description of the objects of information sought, possessions and locations to be searched, and the approximate time the search will be conducted."

The policy continues, "Although not required by law, whenever possible the search will be conducted at reasonable times with the occupant(s) present."

Nichols said that while that policy holds for most formal searches, he said that if a violation is found "in plain view," then "it is acceptable for an officer to search the surrounding premises for further violations."

It was "perfectly acceptable" that the security officer searched the bar and cited the student for its contraband content, even though the bottle of tequila was stowed away out of plain view, Nichols said. Furthermore, an officer would be "neglecting his duty if he did not search the immediate area."

Though Nichols acknowledged that a bar could be used in a number of different ways that do not involve alcohol?a counter or a pantry, for example?the fact that there was Kahlua on the table gave Security probable cause to search this bar.

Nichols also said that an officer could enter a room and search the immediate premises even if he was mistaken in his belief that an initial violation had occurred. The officers first entered the room because in addition to the Kahlua, they saw a Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum bottle that, as it turned out, was filled with water.

Another roommate, Andrew Sargeantson '08, said that by searching their private bar area, Security was exceeding its mandate to maintain order and ensure the students' safety.

"It's not as if any complaint had been made. It's not a time when people are having parties," he said. "It seemed like they were going out of their way to get us in trouble."

"There was no need to protect," he added.

Sparks agreed.

"There were no students drinking alcohol," he said, "So this was not a matter of keeping people safe."

Sparks, who admitted that he doesn't know the College's search and enter policies offhand, said that this incident is part of what he considers a trend that has seen Security pay unusually close attention to Baxter House this year.

Sparks said that twice this fall, Baxter residents have tried to register "spontaneous parties," which is permissible under college policy pending the permission of Security. Both times, they were denied permission, and both times, Sparks said, Security showed up at Baxter later that night as though to make sure no event was taking place.

He also recounted an incident when Security came into Baxter claiming that someone reported a fight, which Sparks said was "a complete lie," and another incident when Security officers showed up and claimed that they heard "loud music" and that it "sounded like a party," when the stereo wasn't even plugged in.

"Security is in our house almost every day," he said. "I think it's absurd to think that Security would be walking through Chamberlain, Brunswick Apartments, or one of the freshman dorms looking to write people up at 9:00 in the morning."

Two-year Baxter resident Mike McClelland '08 agreed that Security has been in the house "more often than last year," adding that last year Baxter was put on probation early in the year for an unregistered event, while this year the house has not been cited for any such violation.

Nichols denied that Baxter has been singled out among the college houses and residence halls.

"Baxter is not under any unusual attention at all," he said. "We're pleased with the way Baxter has run this year."

The security director also refuted the students' complaints that officers were outside their mandate, saying that the search was "absolutely" consistent with Security's mission to protect students' health and safety.

Concerning the proposed notion that Security was actively trying to get students in trouble, Nichols said, "we don't operate that way."

Director of Residential Life Kim Pacelli said that she wants students to be content with the College's search and enter policy.

"If students are worried about it, I think it's worth looking at the policy and making sure students are comfortable," she said.

The anonymous student arranged a meeting with Nichols and Assistant Director of Residential Life Lawson Wulsin on Tuesday to discuss the incident, a meeting that the student said was "incredibly productive."

"It struck me as odd at first," said the student, "but after the meeting I understand [the policy] better."

The Orient did not interview Wulsin, since Pacelli said that she acts alone as Residential Life's media liaison. She also declined to comment extensively on the incident. She cited lack of knowledge of the details of the case and time to prepare, because she was first approached by the Orient on Thursday.

Sparks was far less flattering than the anonymous student in his appraisal of the college officials.

"The administration seems to think that the end justifies the means," he said, "and I disagree because it's tearing apart the relationship between students and Security."

He added that undue violations of privacy could damage the College House System, because students might think that if they live in college houses, they will be more likely to get in trouble.