Saturday, December 11, 1999
University warns against e-mail sales
Tech tackles student scalpers

In the future, the school may consider a contract requiring lottery winners to keep tickets in the university's community.


   Hokie tempers are flaring this week as lucky students who won Sugar Bowl tickets try to sell them for a profit. In response to more than a hundred complaints, a Virginia Tech official has threatened action against many of the peddlers for using university computer systems to make their cash.

    Tuesday, 3,200 students won a Sugar Bowl ticket in a lottery that more than 14,500 entered. Almost immediately, some of the started trying to sell their $85 tickets for hundreds of dollars, many using online auction services such as eBay.

    Jeff Cullen, Tech's director of judicial affairs, said he received a flood of complaints of two basic kinds: students whose computers were hanging up because they were so full of Sugar Bowl ticket offers ; and students who felt like the profiteers were turning their backs on their school.

    So Cullen sent out a message Wednesday to about 150 students to let them know that they're violating university policy, and that violators could face formal judicial review if they don't heed his warning.

    The policy states that the university's computer system cannot be used for commercial purposes, personal gain or to send unsolicited messages. This includes using Tech e-mail to sell tickets online and class listserves to advertise tickets, Cullen said.

    Some in the school's athletic department, irked by the resale efforts, sent Cullen's message out to thousands more lottery winners, Cullen said.

    Tech senior Shawn Howell got Cullen's message and immediately took his two tickets off eBay. He said he would try to sell them in other ways, using a friend's non-Tech e-mail address or buying a classified advertisement.

    "It's just a matter of supply and demand," Howell said. "People have been doing that for years."

    As for anger over selling the coveted tickets, Howell said he has one ticket for himself and selling the other two was the only way he could afford to make it to New Orleans. He said he's sees why people are mad, but he's a true Hokie.

    The computer policy violation is not a suspendable offense, but a student with a clean record would probably get a formal warning and the threat of revoking computer privileges, Cullen said.

    Cullen's message also appealed to the sellers' sense of Hokie spirit.

    "There are thousands of other ... fans who are absolutely disgusted in the sense that they did not receive a ticket through the lottery and find it particularly galling that others would 'sell out' their team spirit to the highest bidder," the e-mail reads.

    Tech freshman Dan Perovich has two tickets on eBay, but because he didn't get tickets through the lottery he doesn't think he's violating any university rules. But he said students who did get tickets in the lottery shouldn't be selling them to people outside the school.

    Perovich said he's selling his because he couldn't find friends who could afford to make the trip. He said he just hopes to make back the $600 he paid for the pair off the Internet.

    Cullen's message also warns the sellers they may be breaking scalping laws if they sell their ticket to someone in a locality where it's illegal.

    Cullen also noted that the lottery winners won't even get the tickets until Monday.

    In the future, Cullen said the university may consider an honor code contract that requires lottery winners to keep game tickets within the university's faculty, staff, students and alumni.

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