Students seek answers after being denied entry to Senior Harbor Cruise

The poster for the TUSC-hosted senior cruise, which took place on Sept. 22, is pictured. via TUSC on Facebook

As many as 20 students were denied entry to the Senior’s Boston Harbor Cruise, organized by Tufts University Social Collective (TUSC), on Sept. 22, for what some of these students claim were unclear and seemingly arbitrary reasons, according to two students who were not allowed to board.

The Office for Campus Life (OCL) is currently in the process of meeting with some of these students individually to determine how to resolve the issue, according to Director for Campus Life Joe Golia.

Between 12 and 20 students were prevented from boarding the boat by one of the two security guards, according to senior Shaan Merchant, one of the students who was not allowed to board. The cruise and security were operated by Entertainment Cruises, Merchant said.

According to Golia, TUSC’s senior committee planned the cruise and received logistical assistance and supervision from OCL. Golia confirmed that the OCL had no involvement in choosing the security for the event.

Merchant said that the security guard asked him why he was not standing still during his security screening, and then asked Merchant if he was sober. Merchant responded that he was. According to Merchant, the guard accused him of lying and told him to leave the line and meet with OCL staff present at the event.

“There was no justification, no communication whatsoever,” Merchant said. “We were just left standing in the corner.”

While many students who were turned away exited the premises, several students in similar situations gathered to wait as OCL staff determined the legitimacy of them being turned away, according to Merchant.

Among these students was Emma Brin, who was turned away after a student in front of her vomited in line. Brin, a senior, alleged that the security guard assumed that they were drunk, and asked her and a friend how much alcohol they had to drink. Brin said she was sober at the time.

According to Brin, the group of rejected students waited for over an hour to see if they would be able to board the ship before the boat left the harbor without explanation.

“I think if you got kicked out and you knew that you should have, you’re not going to fight back against it,” Brin said. “The fact that we waited so long to get back on the boat — no drunk person would do that. I wouldn’t push it unless I was really sure that they were in the wrong.”

The security hired by Entertainment Cruises did not offer any option for the students to prove their sobriety, according to Brin and Merchant.

Golia said that the security’s wariness of drunkenness may have been a result of the behavior of many Tufts students as they exited the buses and boarded the cruise. He stated that the general behavior of the students as a result of alcohol consumption was worse than it had been in past years.

“Any decisions to not allow students on the boat was a result of overall student behavior,” Golia told the Daily in an email. “With that said, there may be evidence to show that some students got caught up in the heightened security and possibly should have been allowed on the boat.”

Golia asserted that the fault lay with students who were present, not Entertainment Cruises or OCL.

“Everything that happened resulted from student behavior and not arbitrary decisions of the university or venue staff,” he told the Daily in an email.

Associate Director for Campus Life Ashley Austin explained that students at off-campus events are subject to the rules of the off-campus venue, and OCL is often unable to dictate what happens.

“We can’t always guarantee that our students are going to be treated how they want to be treated by staff I don’t have any control over,” she said. “That puts our staff in a very hard position to support students though we really want to validate their feelings about certain issues that they’re going through, but not having any power to do anything about it at a venue is tough.”

Golia said that this incident came as a surprise to OCL, especially since Tufts has had a good relationship with Entertainment Cruises in the past. Entertainment Cruises hosted TUSC’s Senior’s Boston Harbor Cruise events in the spring of 2017 and 2018, according to Golia.

Golia said that this year, the Entertainment Cruises staff raised complaints of physical and verbal harassment from Tufts students.

“They were thrown by surprise too — they’ve worked with Tufts many times without issue,” Golia said.

Brin and Merchant both stated that they were not made aware of rules regarding alcohol consumption before the event, but both students acknowledged that it was common sense for visibly intoxicated students to be prevented from boarding.

“There was nothing in the event that said you couldn’t get on the boat if you’d had anything to drink,” Brin said. “I think it’s common sense that if you’re visibly drunk they are not going to let you on, but if you’ve had one drink, nobody told us that wouldn’t be okay.”

A Sept. 17 email sent by TUSC to the entire senior class to advertise the event did not list any restrictions on alcohol consumption, stating only that “the event is NOT 21+,” and that a cash bar would be available to students in attendance.

According to Austin, OCL sent an email to students who had purchased cruise tickets that explained that participants would be subject to a security screening and that all university policies and standards of behavior as identified in the student code of conduct would apply. A copy of the email obtained by the Daily also shows that OCL had included a link to Entertainment Cruises’ website so that students could review their policies prior to the cruise. The link, however, leads to the company’s homepage, not to any page listing its policies.

Entertainment Cruises did not respond to multiple requests from the Daily for information on the company’s policy on passengers’ alcohol consumption prior to boarding.

Golia said that it should be common sense that heavily intoxicated students get pulled out of line, and that this policy is not atypical for event venues.

“Their policy ever since I started working with them 20 years ago — and this is a policy for any venue I’ve ever worked at — is that if you show up intoxicated and there is a reason they feel it’s serious, they’re [going to] pull you out [of line],” he said.

At the moment, OCL is working with Student Affairs and interviewing students who claim that they were treated unfairly by Entertainment Cruises security, according to Golia. He emphasized that cases will be dealt with individually and that other evidence, like video footage of the docks, will be consulted if necessary.

As of Wednesday, both Brin and Merchant said they had sought refunds from OCL for their cruise tickets, but OCL has yet to issue any refunds. Austin said that refunds might be issued, depending on individual circumstances.

Merchant said he is protesting his barred entry because Tufts failed to defend its students and he hopes to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future.

“It’s not even that much about the money. It’s kind of ridiculous that at a Tufts-sponsored event, something like this would happen and that there was not immediate action taken,” he said. “I would hope that Tufts doesn’t use this company again or at least make sure this company doesn’t use this security again.”

Since the cruise was put on by TUSC rather than OCL, Golia said that the possibility of events like this in the future depends on student organizations’ willingness to host them, given what happened this year.