Webshots incriminate students

By Lauren Reilly
March 18, 2004

Angelina Wagner

Incriminating Internet photographs led nine students to be fined and placed on housing probation after the website webshots.com was brought to the attention of Michael Quickel, an area coordinator for Residence Life.

To their surprise, students were notified that they had been written up for violating standard three: promoting the peace, health and safety of the community. On Wednesday, March 7, the nine freshmen attended a hearing with Quickel and Residence Life director George Stroud to find out that a website containing pictures of them drinking in their dormitory rooms had been brought to Quickel’s attention. After reviewing the pictures, Stroud and Quickel decided that the Xavier residents would each be subject to a $50 fine as well as being put on housing probation for Dec. 31, 2004.

For many of the students, this was their first offense, which caused an immense outrage among the accused. “They said we were considered to be the role models of Xavier,” freshman Jenna Nash, an English and communications major, said, “Quickel said that he was ‘setting an example.'”

For Nash, the repercussions did not end there. After the sanctions given by Residence Life, Nash was told by the office of Student Activities, where she had been hired to fulfill her work-study hours, was terminating her employment. According to Nash, in a meeting with Jason Bozzone, the director of Student Activities, hearsay about her write-up inclined him to question Stroud about the incident. After viewing the pictures, Bozzone said that ‘it looked bad on the office’ and Nash could no longer be a student worker. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. The school has suspended my financial aid,” Nash said.

In addition to their fine and housing probation, each student’s parents were notified about the incident as well as sent the thumbnail’s of each picture that were seen by both Quickel and Stroud. When freshman Charlie Grugan’s father received the small pictures, he called Stroud to question about the identification process of the investigation because he was unable to distinguish his own son in the photographs. According to Grugan, Stroud told his father that although the enlarged pictures had not been saved and were removed from the website, all the students had admitted to committing the violations. Grugan denies that statement because of the current appeals process that the students are going through. “Why would we admit to doing anything if we’re appealing it?” Grugan said.

This began when one of the students involved had uploaded some questionable pictures, which were originally accessed through a personal web page, onto webshot.com. A resident assistant (RA) then forwarded the hyperlink on the student’s web page to Quickel, who in turn, discovered many more pictures of similar nature by searching through the website himself.

According to the site, webshots.com has more than 32 million members who have uploaded over 59 million pictures worldwide that are accessible to anyone for no charge. A keyword search enables visitors to narrow down the intended nature of the pictures that they wish to see. When entering the keyword “Cabrini,” over 30 pages of pictures submitted by students can be viewed, many of which contain behaviors that are prohibited by the college.

Nash, as well as the other students involved, are upset about the inconsistency of disciplinary actions taken by Residence Life. Stroud said that each incident is isolated, and therefore, the sanctions are situational; they will differ depending upon the severity of the situation. “I know people who have gotten caught drinking and only had to make a poster. The punishments that others got is nothing compared to ours,” Nash said.

Those involved are not the only ones confused about Cabrini’s policies. Students across the campus are questioning how pictures can be used to prosecute student violations after the incident has passed gone unnoticed by Residence Life. Although it is not stated in the handbook, Stroud said that when it comes to the violation of college policy, the “evidence can be in the form of staff member reports, eyewitness reports and pictures/videos.” However, freshman Jeremy Stevens doubts the validity of pictures, especially with the technology that allows them to be easily manipulated. Stroud would not comment on the legitimacy of photographs as grounds for disciplinary action.

Some have questioned the responsibility of the RAs, saying that perhaps they should share some of the blame since they neglected to catch the behavior while it was happening. Stroud doesn’t agree with this and speaks highly of their efforts. “If there’s a will there’s a way. Students who are underage will find a way to get alcohol,” Stroud said. He added that unless there is an obvious disturbance, RAs are not supposed to pry. “They don’t do that and I wouldn’t want them to do that. I think the RAs are doing an excellent job in catching these students and curbing their behavior,” Stroud said.

Eight of the students are appealing the penalities given to them by Residence Life. “We want the sanctions to be reduced,” Ash said.

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Lauren Reilly

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