by Colin McCoy, staff writer
Many crews have been impacted by theft over the past few years. Farm, Garden, Recycling, Fiber Arts and Forestry crews have all had money or tools stolen from their spaces in recent years. Gas has also been siphoned from service vehicles, and the earnings from the past two spring arts festivals were taken from the 3D Arts studio.
Most recently, Fiber Arts Crew lost their earnings from Festival on the Field to theft. A total of $900 was stolen from their studio- and no one has been caught.
“Community is why I love Warren Wilson, and when stuff like this happens I get super skeptical and feel unsafe,” Fiber Arts Crew supervisor Kelsey Brown said. “It makes me not as excited to be a part of Warren Wilson.”
The robbery did not only affect the crew’s finances.
“More than losing money, [theft] also creates a negative working environment,” Brown said. “In general, the number one suspects are the crewmembers because they have the most access, so it’s really difficult for me to approach that because I don’t want to assume that it’s any person.”
Brown believes that accountability could be a solution to theft on campus.
“Holding people accountable, and creating a culture of integrity is super important,” Brown said. “It’s not a very big community, and a lot of people talk to each other.”
Dean of Service Ian Robertson agrees with Brown.
“I just hope the people in the community here will be vigilant and take on a sense of responsibility to let people know if they feel that they’ve got information regarding what’s happening on campus,” Robertson said.
Robertson and Brown think that theft on campus is negatively affecting our community.
“There are some individuals in this community that don’t understand what community means; that is that we take care of our resources,” Robertson said. “[Theft] is a slippery slope to a dysfunctional community.”
“[Theft] hurts individuals, it hurts group dynamics, and it’s really negative to peers,” Brown said. “If [community members] don’t care, they shouldn’t be a part of Warren Wilson.”
Robertson and Brown believe that many students have a false sense of the financial situation of the college.
“Some people think the college is an x-million-dollar enterprise and that stealing is nothing,” Robertson said. “All of our programs here are fairly meager, and when you lose an amount like $900 from a particular crew that has an expectation to cover their budgets, it actually has a significant effect upon them.”
“People feel like they’re entitled to steal money because it’s just money, and it’s going to the college,” Brown said.
Leah Leitson is a ceramics professor at Wilson and supervisor of the 3D Arts crew. Money that students raised from the Spring Arts festival has been stolen from her office two years in a row. The money that was taken (20 percent of the total earnings) was intended to go toward the Craft Emergency Relief Fund.
“It’s sad because people work really hard to make the artwork, raise the money, and it was money going to a specific cause that’s benefiting people in need,” Leitson said. “It’s a service, and I just think it’s so wrong to not only steal the money, but to take the money that was intended to help somebody. It was very disheartening.”
These thefts have brought up conversations about the safety of the campus.
“You have to be skeptical and not assume everything is safe,” Brown said.
“Wilson is not a perfect world,” Fiber Arts Crew member Rebecca Foster said. “People steal things here like they do everywhere else.”
Solutions to the theft problem have been put into place. For example, locking gas caps have been installed on many campus vehicles.
However, more drastic measures will be taken if necessary said Robertson.
“If we cannot stop things on our own surveillance we will be forced to look at other systems to try and identify who is doing this to the community,” he said.
Robertson said that people’s privacy and the resources that the college offers could be infringed upon if theft continues.
“I want to see us be respectful of our resources here,” Robertson said. “But if they start being abused, the first thing to do is withhold that ability to use them.”
This could mean locking buildings at night that are typically open to certain students 24 hours. It is also possible that surveillance cameras will be installed in more areas of campus.
Other slight precautions have been taken by certain crews to prevent future theft. Neither Brown nor Leitson feel comfortable leaving any money in their studio space now.
“If you want to be a part of Warren Wilson, you should want to be part of the community.” Brown said. “It’s why people come here.”