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Penn Students Launch App That Connects Undergrads To College Parties

(credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/Getty Images)

(credit: PHILIPPE HUGUEN/Getty Images)

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By Chelsea Karnash

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Penn students looking to party can now turn to their smartphones.

TheRedCup, an app that looks to connect college partiers with college parties, launched this past summer and has already received more than 3,000 downloads. It was created by Penn sophomores Utkarsh Shah, Clay Fairbanks and Christopher Hariz, who won the Audience Choice Award at the Elevator Pitch Challenge hosted by Weiss Tech House back in February.

“Chris, Clay and I were friends and hallmates freshman year. As freshmen we found that, well connected or not, it was difficult for the average student to discover all the student-related events occurring on or near campus,” Shah said via email. “Similarly, we realized that college organizations spent a great deal of time, energy, and resources promoting their events with little to show for it. We feel that TheRedCup solves these problems by connecting students with event organizers in an easy-to-use and centralized manner.”

So, how does it work?

While anyone can download TheRedCup, users must have a Penn undergraduate email address and valid Facebook account to log in. Parties are posted with the date they’re occurring and a map of the location, along with a ranking of one to five red cups beneath. Users can ‘like’ the party in order to increase its rating. They can also upload parties they’re hosting to the app.

Of course, there are some worries about an app that directs students – who may be underage – to parties where alcohol is often served indiscriminately. For one, students are worried about getting into trouble – whether with the police or with the University of Pennsylvania.

“Great now the cops can see exactly where everything is as they ‘plan their night,’” one reviewer wrote, under the heading “Take this app down.”

“A big liability in terms of unwanted guests (namely school officials or police,” wrote another, despite awarding the app a three star rating.

But Shah and his co-creators say that neither police nor Penn administrators can gain access to the app, emphasizing that it requires an undergraduate email address. They also told The Daily Pennsylvanian that they promoted over 80 parties on TheRedCup during NSO, or New Student Orientation, and didn’t receive any complaints about police activity.

While it does appear that only a Penn undergrad would be able to log in – I used my (still active) Penn email address from graduate school and was unable to gain access to the app’s party listings – it remains to be seen whether TheRedCup would be impervious to some creative methods utilized by either police or school officials.

That’s a concern that Shah and his co-creators say is irrelevant:

“TheRedCup was made by Penn students and is currently only for Penn students. Thus, registration is only open to University of Pennsylvania students and no one else. The only reason that law enforcement or the administration are [sic] restricted from accessing the application is because they do not fit this category. We did not implement any ‘security feature’ specifically targeting those entities,” he wrote via email. “Claiming that we are ‘hack-proof’ or suggesting that we are trying to prevent law enforcement from doing their job or help students violate the law [is] grossly misrepresenting the application, our intentions, and who we are.”

And as for those who feel TheRedCup might be inadvertently putting a big Solo cup of beer into the hands of an underage drinker?

“The people criticizing our application do not understand its purpose,” Shah said. “Like all the other developers of applications based in user-generated content, we are not responsible for the actions of those who use our application. We encourage the users to act safely and responsibly when using our application and otherwise.”

For more on TheRedCup, visit the app’s Facebook page.

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