A letter to the president of Brandeis

I have just printed out and will shortly send the following letter.

November 6, 2012

Frederick M. Lawrence, President
MS 100 Brandeis University
P.O. Box 549110
Waltham, MA 02454-9110

Dear Mr. Lawrence:

I am outraged by the treatment I was given by employees of Brandeis University yesterday evening.

Last night I went to a small concert by Heather Dale and friends (by which I mean friends of mine as well as hers) at Lyman Ballroom. To get in, I was made to empty my pockets, go through a metal detector, and then was wanded down because the detector went off anyway.

One of the three guards present noted my Swiss Army knife and asked if I was planning to use it. Since I didn’t expect to be opening any difficult plastic bags, I said no. He told me that if I had said yes, he would have confiscated it. I must conclude from what he said that guards sometimes confiscate people’s property.

A private institution such as Brandeis has the right to set ludicrous conditions of entry such as passing through a metal detector as if I were in an airport and not a university. It does not, however, have any right whatsoever to take visitors’ property away from them. That is theft, plain and simple.

I do not know if this “confiscation” is authorized. If not, then Brandeis employees are stealing from visitors and this needs to be stopped. If it is authorized, then Brandeis University is stealing from visitors.

As a further example of the surveillance-state mentality which evidently pervades Brandeis, the guest Wi-Fi demanded my name, phone number, and email address as a condition of access. As an example of the stupid security theater that goes with this, the SSL certificate of the Wi-Fi server was expired. I could have been giving that information to anyone. Since the connection was untrusted, I had to give false information. For your records, I was the one who signed in as “nobody@nowhere.com.”

The treatment I received yesterday at Brandeis was outrageous, and I hope I will never have to set foot on its campus again.


Gary McGath

Update: As of November 20, I’ve received no reply. It appears from the silence that Brandeis has no problem with guards who steal from visitors. If I do hear anything I’ll post a further update.

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