Cooper: Northwestern should rethink clear bag policy


Daily file photo by Jacob Swan

Northwestern plays Nebraska at Ryan Field. The NU athletic department announced a new rule at the end of August saying only clear bags of a certain size will be allowed in the arena.

Danny Cooper, Columnist

Last month, Northwestern announced a stark, disruptive change in the bag policy for Ryan Field. Under the new rules, only clear bags under certain size specifications would be allowed into the stadium, excluding medical equipment. Though NU characterized the change as an effort to improve security, comfort and efficiency, the policy has mostly served to infuriate spectators and students alike. Particularly for fans with young children or those who cannot easily use their pockets for storage, this policy is incredibly inconvenient. If NU wishes to avoid alienating fans, it should alter the policy so these fans are still allowed to enter the stadium with the items they need.

Under the current policy, the only non-clear bags allowed in are “small clutch bags no larger than (4.5 X 6.5 inches).” For fans who have necessary possessions that cannot be simply stuffed into wallets or pockets, this policy makes game attendance cumbersome. Families with young children cannot easily bring diaper bags and other supplies to the game, making it harder for young fans to come to Ryan Field and develop a connection with the Cats.

It is understandable that NU would do everything in its power to limit the security threats inherent to hosting large sporting events; eliminating the mass of backpacks from the crowd does help reduce risk. If NU really wants to reduce the risk of a security incident at Ryan Field, it would consider other security measures rather than installing a policy that has resulted in people turned away from the stadium.

In fact, clear bags might actually cause more of a security risk, considering that they display one’s possessions for the world to see. Seeing a stack of cash or a smartphone bouncing around in someone’s see-through bag makes it easier for a thief to decide who to target.

It’s also important to note that the policy makes it essential for people to buy items inside the stadium. Whether fans will flock to buy blankets and sweatshirts they could not fit into their clear bags as the season grows longer and the games get colder, or buy the expensive food and water from the concession stands, makes no difference. Although outside food and drink were already prohibited inside Ryan Field, it appears the new policy was made, in part, to enforce a rule that results in fans having no other option than purchasing water bottles for $4 a piece.

NU cannot do anything immediate to improve the on-field experience for its fans, which has been disappointing so far this year. However, the University can make the spectator experience better by loosening the Draconian bag regulations. At least then the fans could watch the game in relative comfort, regardless of the final score.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the location of a football game in the photo caption. The game was held at Ryan Field. The Daily regrets the error.

Danny Cooper is a Medill sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.