Confiscation of signs angers returning students
A number of students returned from Winter Break this year
to find that their rooms looked a little different, their walls a little
barer. The reason was that security officers removed what Director of
Security Bruce Boucher called contraband: predominantly traffic signs,
traffic control devices, and construction materials like cones and barricades.
The items were removed during Security's routine building
sweeps, which took place in December in the three days after students
left campus for break.
This is nothing new, said Boucher. "It's done every
time the residence halls are closed for break-we do building sweeps over
Winter Break, Spring Break, and when students leave for the summer."
According to Boucher, security officers were not specifically
looking for traffic signs and construction materials, but for any sort
of contraband-including things that are prohibited specifically at Bowdoin,
such as hard alcohol. There was, however, an unusually high amount of
signage and construction materials, Boucher said.
Boucher also emphasized that Security did not conduct searches,
but simply building sweeps. "All of the items we observed and took
out of the rooms were in plain view. We don't search closets or drawers-we've
got enough to do.
Still, in removing the signs, security officers faced what
Boucher called an ethical dilemma. "It's against Maine law to take
those signs down from public property, and it's against the law to possess
them," he said. "We're not law enforcement officers, but we
still can't turn away from a situation like that."
Many students complained that the signs were received as
gifts or were otherwise obtained legally, and said they thought they should
have been contacted by Security first.
Patrick Rockefeller '04, who, along with his roommate had
a number of signs taken from the room, said, "I think it would have
been more appropriate to talk about it with the students first."
Security is willing to return items, and in many cases has
already returned items, if students can show that they are private property
and were not illegally obtained.
Security is tasked with conducting the sweeps and writing
up reports, which they then turn over to the Office of the Dean of Student
Affairs. The deans then decide how and if to pursue the cases.
Dean of Student Affairs Craig Bradley and Director of Residential
Life Bob Graves both declined comment, referring all questions to Boucher.
Rockefeller said that he has not been contacted by the deans,
but after consultation with Security has received some of the signs back.
He is currently in the process of trying to get the others returned.
All confiscated items are still being stored at the College;
those that are not returned to students or to public works will be destroyed.
Boucher said that Security has learned from the process and expects to provide more feedback to students, both before and after the sweeps, in the future. "Next year when we do it we will probably change some things. We will probably give students more information on what the situation is."