Debunking the myth: Red cups on campus

Red Cups
Thai Nguyen/Flickr
Confusion has arisen regarding the use of red cups in the dorms.


The day freshman Amanda Smith arrived to move into Redding Hall this fall, she heard that she would get into trouble if an RA ever saw a red Solo cup near her—even if the cup didn’t contain any alcohol.

“I was so scared when I first heard that, I made my mom bring all my cups back home with her,” Smith says.

Red Solo cups have become almost synonymous with the drinking and partying scene on college campuses across the United States, even creating a myth here among students that red cups, regardless of their contents, are forbidden in dorms.

Junior Jackie Agliata says these inexpensive cups have become equated with alcoholic beverages. This reputation, she says, is the most significant part of their allure.

“It’s basically the equivalent of holding a tequila bottle in your hand,” Agliata says.

However, dean of students Jośe-Luis Riera stated in an email message that red cups themselves are not banned from on-campus housing.

He explains that while the Student Conduct Handbook forbids any “apparatus that promotes the high-risk, rapid drinking of alcohol,” such as beer pong tables and beer funnels, there is nothing in the handbook that specifically bans red cups in general. Residents are allowed to use these cups freely with non-alcoholic beverages, he says.

“The confusion, I believe, is because these cups are associated with drinking on college campuses,” Riera stated in an email message. “Therefore, in the presence of other factors, such as alcohol, the scent of alcohol, loud music, etc., these cups serve as a sign that drinking may be occurring.”

Ariana Haidari, an alumna who graduated last year with a dietetics degree, was an upperclassmen RA in Brown Hall for two years.

“I think that if I saw them all set out, I would immediately be alerted,” Haidari says. “I would probably be trying to look for other clues in the room.”

Haidari says she never encountered a situation like this in the dorms since the majority of her residents were 21 or older. However, she does have fellow RA friends who have written up underage residents for alcohol violations. She says some of those underage residents have even been under the impression that they could consume alcohol in front of their RAs if they used red cups.

Junior Rachel Strauss, an RA in the Central Complex, has a theory about how these cups have become so prevalent.

“It definitely started as teenagers trying so hard to hide their alcohol,” she says. “And in doing so, they all picked up this same idea—but then [it] kind of caught on.”

Despite the confusion surrounding their presence in dorms, red cups remain a prevalent part of the social scene on campus.

“They remind me of beer and bad decisions,” junior Masha Edmondson says.

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