Student Newspaper Column Delivers High-Profile Criticism of Airport Prank

Student press power vaulted onto the national stage in recent days through a campus newspaper column recounting a student’s run-in with a horrifically insensitive airport prankster.

In a piece for The Michigan Daily headlined “Tsk, Tsk, TSA,” University of Michigan student and “expert traveler” Rebecca Solomon describes a routine run through the security screening at Philadelphia International Airport suddenly turned topsy-turvy when a TSA officer confronted her with a “small baggie of white powder” and a stern warning to tell the truth about its origins. As she writes:

I immediately told him I had no idea where the bag came from and that I hadn’t left my bags unattended— a cardinal sin in airport security. He let me stutter through an explanation for the longest minute of my life. Tears streamed down my face as I pleaded with him to understand that I’d never seen this baggie before.  But as I emotionally tried to explain that I couldn’t explain, he started to smile, an odd reaction to such a monumental find in my things. Then he waved the baggie at me and told me he was kidding, that I should’ve seen the look on my face.

I know.  I had the same reaction.  Remove jaw from floor, and continue reading.

Just as shocking is Solomon’s subsequent account of airport officials brushing her complaints about the prank aside and all but one motherly passenger ignoring her obvious state of distress.  In her words, “I asked to speak with the director of security. The supervisor met me at my gate and I explained what I’d just experienced. I identified the employee, who, to my shock, was not immediately removed from the floor, and filled out a complaint form. . . . And that was it.”

Well, not quite.  Fortunately, Solomon also decided to recall her tale in the Daily. The piece, written nearly three weeks ago, spread throughout the Web and eventually came to the attention of the MSM, including the Associated Press and New York Times. The TSA has been forced to address the incident publicly.  The employee-prankster has been let go.  And larger questions are now swirling about the TSA’s image problem and airport security procedures.

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