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Borrowing without asking seems to be a natural—albeit obnoxious—part of living on a college campus. A friend might use a squirt of your toothpaste if they’re running low, and someone else might hop on a stranger’s bike whenever he or she is late to class. These everyday incidents seem pretty harmless. People might be initially upset, yet everyone recovers. But it’s a slippery slope: what happens when it’s laptops and hundred-dollar bills that suddenly go missing?
This question was one subject of a community meeting held in the chapel last Thursday morning. Student Body President Laura Buchanan and Vice President Esteban Xifré addressed the audience, followed by reports from College President Dr. Jonathan Palmer, Dean of Students Dorsie Glen, and Director of Campus Security Bryan White. The program concluded with a brief opportunity for sharing from the audience.
The informational and metaphysical meeting was meant to address issues that have been on everyone’s minds over the last several weeks, specifically marijuana use among students and major theft across campus.
Xifré began the meeting with brief readings constructed around the theme of honesty. He read: “The great truth in the Science of being, that the real man was, is, and ever shall be perfect, is incontrovertible; for if man is the image, reflection, of God, he is neither inverted nor subverted, but upright and Godlike” (S&H 200:16).
Buchanan encouraged community members to reclaim their thought concerning the Principia campus. Xifré reminded audience members to consider their actions, as stealing is against Principia’s moral code as well as federal law.
In an interview separate from Thursday’s meeting, Residence Director Josh Sprague shed some light on the situation. Said Sprague: “When you think of the Blue Pages and the code of conduct, you often think about drinking, drugs and sex. But the other two big ones in there that don’t get as much air time are honesty and respect … Stealing would definitely be an affront to that idea.”
Buchanan said: “This is something that you can’t be a passive victim on. You need to be willing to use the Matthew Code and use your courage [to talk to people].”
Palmer spoke for a few moments, reminding us that: “Principia is, more than any other educational institution I’ve been involved with, our home. And honestly, right now I think our home needs to be better defended.”
White shared a few statistics that helped show the degree of theft on campus. According to White, over $13,000 worth of valuables have been reported stolen from winter break through week four of this quarter. White added that the Campus Security office is taking all necessary steps to find out who is behind these incidents. The local police have been called in on several cases.
Senior Brian Kamusinga is one of many students that have been directly affected by this recent trend. Kamusinga said he had money stolen from his room in Buck House within the first week of this quarter.
Kamusinga said he reported the theft to his resident counselor, although he knew the chances of getting his money back were slim.
The incident was a bit of a shock to Kamusinga, who said he’s never felt the need to hide any of his belongings in his four years on this campus. He added that thinking an important item has been stolen is “a very pervasive idea once it’s been put in the community.”
But Kamusinga will not allow his own experience to permanently color his perception of this campus. He said, “To be honest, I’m not really flustered by it because I think security is a state of mind … A lot more damage is done when we panic and become distrustful of each other.”
The problem is not exclusive to Buck, although Dorsie Glen said instances of theft have been reported more frequently in men’s houses, including the men’s sides of Rackham and Anderson.
Beyond trying to stop the stealing, Glen said our priority should be to handle the concept of safety. “It’s not just a matter of ‘Boy, once we find out who’s doing it … we’ll all start feeling secure again.’ We have to really understand that sense of safety and security now.”
Glen recently sent out a mass email to every Principia College parent asking for support on this issue. Said Glen, “I’ve been amazed. I bet I’ve gotten 28 responses from parents who are saying, ‘Thank you for keeping us informed. We’ll get right on it.’”