Latest NSO theft sparks questions of org. security

More than half of a semester after a summertime theft of items totaling hundreds of dollars, No Such Organization (NSO) received funding from the Vassar Student Association (VSA) following a robbery within their group’s headquarters. This robbery marks the second theft in three years of the NSO, and, despite narratives to the contrary, fits within a larger pattern of expensive thefts of student organizations that include Vassar College Entertainment (ViCE), the Vassar Filmmakers and The Miscellany News in the last few years. Leaders of NSO and representatives within the VSA alike view this most recent robbery as a potential catalyst for larger discussions about administrative and organizational policies around security, and hope that other organization presidents will increase security measures in the face of potential losses.

The theft, which occurred over the summer, with items being taken from the NSO’s clubroom, included a wide variety of items, such as role-play game (RPG) systems, several video games, board games and boffering equipment used in Live Action Role Play games, with an estimated price of more than $500. Although the organization’s safety precautions included a lock mechanism for the door, issues with the door frame made the lock ineffective. Last Sept., NSO filed a Capital Fund request following a similar left of gaming consoles, controllers, and video games. Their request of $951.97, later approved by the VSA Council without objection, included provisions for a new lock. The request states, “We received a new lock from the school that should not be vulnerable to breaking and looting.”

However, according to reports, the added precautions were not enough to prevent another theft. It was this initial theft that left the door frame so damaged that it effectively eliminated the value of the new lock system.

In light of this information, NSO will attempt a variety of new methods to prevent future break-ins. According to the fund application placed by NSO, they “plan on discussing with Residential Life and Buildings & Grounds in order to repair our door to the clubroom.” Additionally, as part of the funding they received from the VSA, NSO’s large-ticket items will gain safety tags.

While the VSA did approve funding for safety tags, Finance Committee refused to allot the entire amount requested in the fund application. Aside from seeking replacements for the lost equipment, the organization requested new items; Finance Committee felt uncomfortable granting funding for items unconnected to the robbery. VP for Finance Maximilien Moran ’16 stated, “Given that we were already spending so much money replacing the items, we felt that it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to also spend money buying new stuff.”

Additionally, while Moran clearly stated that blame should not fall on burglarized organizations, the partial funding was born out of a belief that this method would instill an increased degree of cautiousness with items, operating on the economic theory of moral hazard. Moran explained, “We also thought that we needed to instill this sense of accountability to the members of this organization, even though we understand that it’s not the fault of the people who were robbed…We need there to be some kind of repercussion when stuff is taken.”

Despite that fact that the fund application in its entirety was not supported, NSO leadership is pleased with the decisions made by Council. NSO co-president Cat Morgan ’15 noted, “The VSA support this year has been critical in finally implementing a complete solution, and we are thankful for their help.”

While this funding has assisted NSO in rebuilding after the robbery, the organization, which boasts at least 50 active members and hosts community events which include an annual NonCon convention that boasts cosplay, video game tournaments and vendors, foresees larger impacts.

Morgan explained, “The NSO has experienced two major break-ins within the past three years, both of which caused us substantial financial losses. It’s very frustrating because we are a club that services a large portion of the student body and the greater community, and these thefts hindered our weekly activities and bigger events.”

Although spread out across numerous semesters, and despite claims by the new VP for Activities Lauren Garcia ’16, this latest theft marks yet another expensive theft for student organizations that potentially hindered the capabilities of the groups. Said Garcia in an emailed statement, “There isn’t a huge issue with theft or security in organizations. This case stands alone, and typically orgs are very responsible and take proper security measures. Sometimes, things just happen to be out of their control.”

Though there have not been a large number of reported thefts this year, historically, several organizations with big-ticket items have been targets of theft. According to Moran, ViCE has reported thefts in recent years that have prompted them to increase security on their items to include security tags to prevent the resale of stolen items. Meanwhile, within the last three years the Vassar Filmmakers also experienced a theft that hindered their operating ability for a period. Finally, a robbery of The Miscellany News over Summer 2012 saw the loss of three desktop computers. The theft required replacing all computers, as well as updates to the locks and changes in key access policy.

It is the connected nature of these thefts that has left NSO and VSA leaders advising students about security and reconsidering those precautions and responses made by the College. Suggestions to prevent future incidents range from basic steps to larger shifts in policy. Garcia advised, “Sometimes things just happen to be out of their control. Lock your things. Know who has access to these items. Make sure your members value your org items and respect the safety measures needed to be taken with them.”

While Morgan expressed gratitude for the VSA funding NSO received, she also noted that other arbiters of College security have proven less cooperative. She remarked, “Both times, we attempted to discuss potential solutions with the College, but our ideas have been completed only halfway, allowing criminals to continue breaking in.”

Moran asserted that funding for security tags on costly items should be requested by student organizations like ViCE does, not as a reactionary measure, but rather as a standard portion of annual budgeting.

Moran also expressed a hope that this latest theft will spur additional discussions within the VSA and beyond. He noted, “I think the biggest priority is we need to find spaces that are not susceptible to people breaking into them and having a better system whereby we keep track of who has keys and who has access.”

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