The Time an Entire Campus Dumped Its Booze Because of Snapchat

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This is not how you'd expect Snapchat, the self-destructing image-sharing app, to get college kids into trouble: many underage students at the University of Virginia dumped their beer and spirits because of a social media hoax on Monday afternoon. The UVA student paper The Cavalier Daily reports that on Monday afternoon, a freshman named Meredith Markwood received a Snapchat photo of a friend — who wishes to remain anonymous — waiting at the university's police station, accompanied by a warning about the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which polices underage drinking on campus: "ABC is conducting dorm sweeps and they found a beer in my common room."

As documented by Post Local, like a panicked clan of meerkats who spotted a hawk overhead, students put the call out on Twitter (eventually giving rise to the hashtag #UVAdormsearch) which  prompted a purge of illicit alcoholic beverages. As one heavily-favorited tweet put it, "The current BAC of the dumpster: 5.6." Only after sending it to others did Markwood realize that her anonymous friend's warning was in jest: "Though Markwood told her friends immediately after learning she had been tricked, the power of social media had given the rumor a life of its own," writes The Cavalier Daily, which described the scene on campus as a "school-wide chaos."

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The reaction wasn't entirely unreasonable. In recent weeks, Virginia law enforcement authorities have increased efforts to police underage drinking at campus watering holes, like a cluster of bars in downtown Charlottesville, near the eastern edge of UVA's campus. The efforts have been contentious — as they are at all college campuses — but not totally misplaced. As is common in flagship universities south of the Mason-Dixon, UVA has a vibrant Greek culture (about 1 in 3 students belong to a fraternity or a sorority), whose rituals often involve the dramatic consumption of alcohol, and features several popular sports programs, which received fresh attention in January when a 19-year-old five-star football recruit was arrested in downtown Charlottesville for public intoxication.

Not all was lost. As one student observed, a handful of fraternity brothers apparently made the rounds at several freshman dorms and demanded that residents forfeit their booze:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.