Students were arrested by DPS as part of Jail and Bail, a prank Relay for Life used to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
At 11 a.m. last Saturday, Evan Smith ’09 awoke to a series of knocks on his bedroom door and a gruff voice: “DPS! Open up!” Smith opened his door to find two Department of Public Safety officers waiting for him.
“I answered the door in my bathrobe,” Smith said. “They told me I had to get dressed because they had to take me away.”
Luckily for Smith, he wasn’t really arrested. He was just a target of Jail and Bail, one of the latest pranks carried out by Brown’s Relay for Life committee, which organizes an overnight walk each year to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society.
Jail and Bail “is an event where, if you give us five dollars and give us the location of a friend at some point on Saturday, we will have a DPS officer go and arrest them,” said Margaret Watson ’11, co-chair of Brown’s Relay For Life committee and a Herald senior business associate.
DPS officers presented all detainees with a warrant for their arrest and brought some to a “jail” in Wilson Hall 205, Watson said, where they had mug shots taken while wearing handcuffs. Other captives were released on the site of their arrest, after posting a $2 bail.
The committee decided to promote awareness for Relay for Life across campus through unusual fundraisers, as a sort of “publicity stunt,” Watson said.
“Part of the idea behind doing these fundraisers is to get the word out for Relay for Life and make sure people are signing up for teams,” she said.
The officers explained to the targets of Jail and Bail that they were not really under arrest, but a few people “got really scared,” Watson said. “Once we explained everything, they were fine, though.”
Akira Rattenbury, who was visiting friends at Brown, witnessed the arrest of his friend Adam Epstein ’09 and was “definitely scared” by the prank.
“We had hosted a party the night before, and I was lying on the couch, in and out of sleep, and I woke up and looked up to see police out the window,” Rattenbury said. “I just thought, ‘Uh oh. What did we do last night?’”
According to Campus Police Officer Elayna Boucher and Security Officer Jarret D’Amato, targets of the prank were all “good sports,” but some were disconcerted at first.
The most disoriented were “the ones who had a long night last night,” D’Amato said. “They look at the arrest warrant and say, ‘Okay, I’m still confused.’”
Some targets of the Jail and Bail prank were not scared upon arrest, because they were aware of the fundraising effort.
When Ethan Risom ’10 was arrested in his room in New Dorm, he said he was a “little confused at first,” but, he added, “One of my friends from Relay for Life was with (the DPS officers), so I figured it out pretty quickly.”
Some victims of the prank decided to get even with their friends by issuing a “counter-warrant,” Watson said. She added that, in total, DPS officers “arrested” about 30 people Saturday.
Brown’s Relay for Life committee also organized another “out of the box” fundraiser last week, Watson said, when it “chicken cooped” 16 rooms on campus.
The committee thought it would be “funny and hilarious” to charge students $5 to cover the doors to their friends’ rooms in duct tape, Watson said.
“People got really excited about it,” Watson said. “We had a table in the mail room, and people signed up.”
Roxanne Knapp ’11, one of the targets of the chicken cooping prank, said she was alarmed when she heard strange noises outside her door late at night.
“I heard creepy ripping noises, and we’ve had people try to get in our door before drunkenly, so I was really creeped out,” Knapp said.
She was relieved when she opened her door and found members of the Relay for Life committee covering her door frame in tape.
When she woke up the next day, Knapp had to “army crawl” under her tape-covered doorway to leave her room, she said.
The committee’s co-chairs – Watson, Greg Young ’11 and Dominique Ferraro ’11 – came up with their “crazy fundraising ideas” at a Relay for Life summit last November, Watson said. At the convention, the committee learned that the chicken cooping and Jail and Bail are common fundraisers for other Relay for Life chapters.
Participants in the relay, set to take place April 10 from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., form 8- to 15-person teams, which then collect donations.
Past Relay for Life events at Brown have raised over $100,000, Watson said.