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Incident prompts backpack ban during The Voice

A surprise rule greeted students attending the first event of The Voice this month: no backpacks allowed.

This rule, in effect for functions run by campus life and similar groups, made its debut on April 4 at The Voice, Christopher Plummer, technical director of the Performing Arts Center where the events takes place, said.

Plummer said the no-backpack policy is a response to an incident which occurred a year ago during Spring Family Weekend.

“There was something that snuck into the theater last year that caused some damage to the carpets and seats that required a cleaning service to come in,” Plummer said.

He indicated he could not elaborate “since it is a privacy issue for the students involved.”

The policy also helps “space concerns when the [auditorium] is full to capacity” and removes tripping hazards for emergency situations, he said.

Bob Baum, dean of students, said it was “food and drink” in backpacks that some students brought into the auditorium.

Plummer said himself and others decided that not allowing backpacks at all was the best way to handle the incident, after considering alternatives.

“So far, we have had no more of the issues we had last year, and we hope that it will continue,” he said.

Nicole LaFace, junior communication major, and Serena Chase, junior integrated science major, said they went to every The Voice event this year, but were left unaware of why the no-backpack policy was implemented.

Chase said that the policy was enforced by APB for every The Voice event this year, although it was never used the last.

The first night of this year, Chase said, students left their backpacks in the lobby outside of the gym and auditorium.

For The Voice events after this, a room with secured lockers next to the auditorium was used to keep students’ belongs, she said, adding that she thinks student complained about the safety of their backpacks caused the change.

Both Chase and LaFace called the no-backpack policy inconvenient.

“It’s ridiculous,” LaFace said. “I’m trying to squeeze my laptop and my bookbag [into the room] with other people’s, and you have to remember the code, and it’s like: why can’t we just put our bookbags on our feet inside the auditorium?”

LaFace added that waiting and “fighting” to get her backpack out of the room when the event is over is also inconvenient.

Plummer said that students coming from class can place their backpacks in this room as well as secured lockers in the Carey Center provided by SGA.

“We do not want anyone to miss an event, so we have these options for students,” Plummer said.

Theater shows and school related events such as classes, department meetings and orientations are exempt from the policy, he said.

“Certain events have tighter security than others,” Plummer said. “[It] really depends on the crowd expected.”

Baum also provided a reason why the policy is enforced for some events and not others.

“At big events it’s too difficult to monitor, and the bags take up too much space [in the auditorium’s aisles and seats],” he said.

Baum said he does not determine what is considered a “big event,” and when asked how The Voice was monitored despite its large crowd, replied that he “was not in charge of the event.”

According to Plummer, a group sponsoring an event in the auditorium is to assign people to inform students of the policy and help them store their backpacks.

“Our goal is to make this a safe and enjoyable venue for all who come to see events in the theater,” Plummer said, “as well as family and friends of our students and employees.”

Plummer said the policy would be enforced for the Mr. SVC event as well, which occurred on April 20.

The Voice is a student singing tournament run by APB and is based on a reality TV series. The Voice SVC season six, which featured five events in the auditorium, concluded April 21 during Spring Family Weekend.

Photo: SVC Flickr

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