By Lisa Jesudas
A flat-screen television, a sofa, flooring, and a projector. As the common rooms serve as a hub for AUC committees, string members, and social gatherings, concerns surrounding theft have been heightened in light of cases being reported.
Since the COVID-19 lockdown, the common rooms have remained locked. However, the theft of items stored in common rooms has been a recurring issue. In the summer of 2020, an expensive television given to the PlayUC committee was taken from their prescribed common room. The committee used a large closet with a chain wrapped around to store board games and valuables, but the television could not fit inside. It was usually kept hidden underneath a mattress.
Per Movig, a third-year Humanities major student at AUC and member of PlayUC, says: “This is so unsafe but at the same time who’s going to steal a TV from poor old PlayUC.” The committee members were assured their valuables would be kept safe once the common rooms were locked due to the COVID-19 lockdown that followed. However, when the common room was checked after the summer, the television was nowhere to be found.
PlayUC was unsure of how to proceed. They reported the theft to the AUCSA, who informed them that a police report would be filed. Due to unknown reasons, the report was not made. The perpetrators and the television have not been found. It is also unclear whether the theft was carried out by an AUC student or not.
While several parties were indirectly involved, Movig notes that nobody can claim responsibility for the theft. Since the common rooms were locked during this time, Movig explains possible scenarios for how people could have gotten in. For example, the caretaker may have unknowingly unlocked the door for someone with malicious intent. Movig discussed this with the caretaker of the dorms, Adel El-Sabagh. The caretaker expressed sympathy for the PlayUC committee but did not have any more information on the theft.
The dorms have a trusting culture among the residents and building staff. Second-year Social Science major Anicca Sullivan echoes this sentiment as she describes the unexpected theft of her string’s common room flooring and sofa. “Nothing had been stolen before,” she says.
Flooring that had been laid down in a common room, as well as a new sofa, was removed and taken in the summer of 2021. Sullivan describes the effort put into the common room to create an inviting space. String members paid to move the flooring to the dorms and spent a lot of time laying it down. Since people were working on the flooring, they had forgotten to lock the common room door. They acknowledged that this was, in part, an oversight.
Several string members reached out to the caretakers, DUWO, and resident assistants and managed to identify a fairly narrow time span during which the items could have been taken. Responses to posts on AUC Facebook and Whatsapp groups offered helpful information as well, but neither the culprits nor the items stolen were found.
The experience made them realize that they have to be much more careful. As the string begins work on new flooring, they now keep the common room locked, and have put signs outside to avoid unassuming people taking things out.
In light of recent news that the majority of common rooms would be open again, Sullivan worries that it would be difficult to maintain a degree of security – as people begin redesigning their common rooms to create a more social atmosphere for gathering once again. She appreciates the new strategy of appointing string representatives to improve the security of the common rooms.
On the other hand, using AUC social media groups yielded more fruitful results for roommates, Siddarth Nair, a first-year Humanities major, and Igor Duijvestijn, a first-year Science major.
Several weeks ago, the pair left a projector hidden under a blanket in their common room after hosting a movie night. Two days later, the projector was stolen. This was very upsetting as Duijvestijn had borrowed the projector from his father and promised to return it soon thereafter.
Nair proceeded to ask for the projector to be returned on AUC Facebook groups and several AUC Whatsapp groups. He recalls being very angry as he wrote “[r]eplace it by Monday and you’ll have renewed our faith in the student community at AUC.”
Later, they received a response from an individual on Facebook. Nair mainly communicated with the person who responded to the post. He was interested in meeting the individual, so he requested that the projector be returned to the room he and Duijvestijn live in instead of the common room. Nonetheless, the person who took the projector returned it to the common room and Nair did not have the opportunity to talk to them about the situation in further detail. Duijvestijn established he did not want to know who was responsible as he did not want it to negatively impact his relationships at AUC. Duijvestijn feels people at AUC are very decent but he concludes not to leave valuable things behind in the common rooms.
In each of these instances, the theft left an emotional impact. Not only were the items taken costly, but they had sentimental value as they were used to bring people together in the common rooms. It is unfortunate that, in most cases, items stolen from the common rooms never end up being returned. While there seems to be a common consensus that the dorms are generally safe, students should remain vigilant moving forward. Resident assistants have expressed in the past that key steps to prevent these events include locking the door and keeping valuable items out of sight.