‘Know Your Rights’ while drinking to thwart trouble

By Megan McNamara

The Illinois Student Senate’s Committee on Student Rights will distribute “Know Your Rights” cards to students at local bars in a campus-wide “card crawl” on Thursday, Feb. 2.

The cards feature helpful tips on what to do if confronted by an officer, and also list crucial phone numbers that students can consult if needed, such as the Rape Crisis Hotline. The goal of the crawl is to increase awareness of fundamental Fourth Amendment rights, such as protection from unreasonable search and seizure, according to the committee’s December report.

“The reason we’re distributing these at the bars is that many times students may be put in positions where the cards would be useful,” said Chris Kantas, chairman of the committee and a junior in LAS.

Mike Keely, manager of Gully’s, 306 E. Green St., said in a phone interview, that he has often spoken with police officers about underage drinking. As a bar owner, he said that he worries about his own liability, and fully supports the “card crawl.”

“It’s always beneficial for students to be more aware of the situation,” he said.

The committee decided to “crawl” on Feb. 2 because of the notoriously heavy Thursday night bar traffic, Kantas said.

The committee, in conjunction with the Student American Civil Liberties Union, has also created approximately 10,000 search and seizure door hangers, which will be distributed by University housing to all residence halls.

“The hangers iterate the authority that police have to enter, search, and investigate private places of residence for students on campus under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” according to the committee’s December report. “(Our) goal with the door hangers is to empower U of I students by informing them of these private property rights and giving them the confidence to assert them.”

Students are generally well informed, Kantas said.

“There are so many more aspects of what they could know about how to handle themselves in confrontations with the police,” he added.

Chief of Campus Police, Kris Fitzpatrick, said in a phone interview, that many people, not just students, need to be more aware of their rights. It is essential to show respect toward the officer and to assert your rights without lying, pushing or shoving, as people are apt to do when their judgment is impaired, Fitzpatrick said.

Although there are certain circumstances that require students to follow orders, there are other circumstances in which students should recognize and apply their rights.