The line between personal and university property

Andy's Column

By on September 23, 2014

For what it’s worth—although I am certainly not in a position to assign value—one can certainly argue that Quinnipiac, despite its arguable flaws, missteps and breakdowns, is generally quite fair in regards to the treatment of its students.

The school is generally supportive of student media (and I say generally because of certain issues that I do not need to elaborate upon in this public forum,) the inherent right of students’ to express themselves (within reason of course) and (hopefully for my sake) the right to protest against any injustices students feel the university commits.

So what is my beef, or tofu for you vegans out there, with the university? Let me give some background before I begin to state my claim.

For centuries, the human right to property has been considered a natural right. For those of you who don’t believe me, go read a book. For those of you who know what I am referencing, I am glad you weren’t sleeping through the entirety of eighth grade social studies. This inherent human right laid down by one of the great enlightenment thinkers is a right that the U.S. government also thought was important enough to put in the constitution.

Under the 14th amendment, congress states that no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

So what does any of this have to do with Quinnipiac? Here is the issue at hand: Over the weekend, I became aware of a situation in which a student had personal property in a dorm that was not university approved; it was a cooking appliance. Upon inspection, the item was confiscated and held, as per university policy.

After receiving an email from Residential Life, an email that also came with a $25 fine, the student who owned the prohibited item sent an email back asking if it were possible to have the item given back. It wasn’t possible; Residential Life cut the cord on the appliance and threw it out.

I understand that Quinnipiac does have its own policies and, because it is a private university, does have more leeway to restrict students when they are within Quinnipiac property. Does that give Quinnipiac the right to destroy personal property upon confiscation?

In the student handbook, the university has a bullet-point that protects university-owned property. According to the handbook, students who damage university property are subject to pay for the damage and also may face disciplinary action.

I do not oppose this point; I believe that respect for the property of another person or business or school is important, but that reciprocity is key. If one party does not give respect, why should the other give it?

The university would surely claim the confiscation and destruction of some property is necessary in order to keep the dormitories safe. I will not and cannot dispute this point; the university, above all else, should protect the safety and wellbeing of all students.

 Rather than destroying personal property, I think that the university has some options that they can enact to avoid actions that may appear to be carried out without regard to student rights.

Here are three options I hope administration, or Residential Life would consider implementing: Hold the items until the end of the semester; this keeps the residential halls safe and avoids destroying personal property. If this doesn’t bode well, give students the option to have a parent pick up the confiscated property. If all else fails, donate the items. There are plenty of people around the New Haven area who are in need of many basic appliances and other goods that are routinely confiscated and destroyed by Residential Life.

Comments

About Andy Landolfi