Christian Diaz, Staff Writer
On account of increased theft, changes in student access to the DeVries gymnasium and weight-training room are being considered by staff and faculty of the Athletics Department.
Proposals include the installation of cameras in the facilities, doors accessible exclusively with student identification, and limited open-hours for the weight room and gym. In addition, students will be employed to monitor the vicinity.
Students wearing backpacks will be prohibited from entering the weight room, a policy implemented at most institutions of higher learning.
Items that have disappeared include dumbbells, BOSU® balls, weight plates, basketballs, foam rollers, stretching rope, an inversion table, paddles, paddle jackets and a canoe among other items. After a partial renovation of the DeVries locker rooms conducted during winter break, several members of the basketball team reported the loss of expensive footwear. Altogether, the Athletics Department estimates a deficit between $3,000 and $5,000 this academic year as a result of theft, a figure that does not include students’ personal belongings. Athletics department staff and faculty contend that the theft problem has peaked this semester.
“It’s hard to budget two hundred dollars here to buy accessories for the weight room,” said Donna Read, outdoor leadership and physical education professor . “It’s pretty frustrating. We bought new BOSU® balls for the gym and two days after we bought them one of them was gone.”
The tipping point was reached when Stacey Enos, director of athletics and adventure sports, witnessed two students “borrow” several weight plates. The students parked a work vehicle outside DeVries before entering the weight room. One student wore a backpack. After the students left the gymnasium, Enos hopped on a bike and rode around campus until she located the implicated work vehicle and eventually confronted the perpetrators.
“We knew they were up to something,” Enos said. “The gentleman said he was just borrowing gear, even though he had the opportunity to ask because I questioned his motives. He had the opportunity to check in with me about what he was doing and he chose not to.”
Read has since begun to keep small equipment locked in her office. Read expressed a mixture of concern and disappointment when asked about the recent increase in theft.
“Students are being selfish and not mindful of others,” Read said. “I think this is a wonderful facility for a campus this size but it is meant for everyone to utilize and everyone to take advantage of, not for one or two people to come in and take what they want.”
“I don’t know if the culture’s changed so much that people feel like they can come in and take things out and feel like they’re entitled to it. This is my tenth year and the volume of theft this year has been high and it is costly,” said Enos. “The Warren Wilson character has absolutely deteriorated in my time. There is no doubt about it.”
Vandalism and theft have been common issues raised in recent student life meetings. Complaints about theft have not been limited to the Athletics Department. Concerns have been raised about students taking equipment from mechanics, beakers from the chemistry labs and even produce from the garden.
“Students need to hold each other accountable,” Enos said. “The ultimate detriment is to them. This is the reason that fees go up. There is a replacement cost obviously. Budgets are tight. The economy is in a tough place. Regardless of that things should not be walking. We do not have the resources to keep replacing the gear at the volume and the pace that they are leaving our facilities.”
“I think we are all reasonable and we operate on a system of wanting to accommodate the student body. Our usage system is based on trust and we expect that if you use a basketball or play soccer that you leave the ball on the court when you’re done. The weight room operates on the same basis, you can come in and use it but you can’t take any equipment out,” Enos said.
“I’m a reasonable person. If you want to check something let me know and you can check it out as long as you bring it back. It is disappointing that students have this mentality that they can just borrow things. It seems like they’re only “borrowing” when they get caught.”