Photos by Georgi Presecky
Only five computers remained in the lab in the basement of JPII following the winter break theft.
Students enrolled in communications courses went without computers for the first two weeks of the semester.
Georgi Presecky, Editor-in-chief
Eleven desktop computers valued at an estimated $33,000 were stolen from the lab in the basement of Pope John Paul II Hall (JPII) over winter break.
It is not known exactly when the Mac computers were stolen, but the theft was discovered Jan. 10.
A security camera was installed in the basement’s common area just before the theft was discovered by police.
Little information has been released about the case or whether there are any suspects. Deputy Chief of Police Mike Zegadlo said the Lewis University Police Department (LUPD) could not comment on the specifics of the ongoing investigation. The computers have reportedly been located at a pawnshop in Joliet, but this report cannot be confirmed.
“LUPD is currently investigating and gathering additional information,” said a statement from the university’s office of marketing and communications. “LUPD remains the lead agency handling the investigation with the Romeoville Police providing technical and investigative support. As part of the investigation process, several people are being interviewed including faculty, staff and students.”
The lower level of JPII is home to the university’s communications department. Two additional computers were stolen from the lab last fall. Those computers were valued at about $3,000 each.
“I think the fact that all the computers were stolen at Christmas at Lewis really was a surprise,” said Dr. David Anderson, chair of the communications department. “The faculty are really upset, because there was a theft in the fall semester and measures were not completed yet to prevent future thefts from occuring.”
A chair, table, wall decorations and an overhead projector have also been stolen from the lower level of JPII in the last few years. A cabinet during the newspaper office was damaged and its lock broken this past October.
The lab from which the computers were stolen is used as a classroom for web design, publication design and social media courses. The curriculum requires not only Internet access, but also Adobe software like Photoshop and InDesign.
Five computers remained in the lab until replacements were installed and secured with Mac locks on Jan. 27. Anderson credited campus police and the College of Arts and Sciences for their timely investigation and acquisition of new computers.
The first few weeks of the semester proved difficult for students enrolled in courses whose curriculum relies heavily on readily available technology in the classroom.
Brianna Peoples, a senior double majoring in public relations/advertising and Spanish language and culture, said that her web design class was greatly affected by the absence of the computers at the start of the semester.
“It’s shortening the time we have to learn the material,” Peoples said. “Time is very valuable, and a course about designing websites that only meets once a week needs every bit of it.”
Students were not informed of the theft until they returned for the spring semester.
“I walked in here and it just felt empty,” said Carl Raschke, a senior interactive media major enrolled in advanced publication design.
Campus security is taking steps to ensure the lab’s security, including the camera installation, as well as by keeping the room locked outside of classroom hours.
“Since the daytime hours are pretty much filled with classes, we have to have some time available for students to get their work done,” Anderson said. “So how can we do that to ensure both the safety of the students but also the security of the lab? It’s kind of balancing those two issues that’s a concern for us.”
Students who need to enter the lab to complete coursework outside of classroom hours can call LUPD and provide their names. They will be buzzed in remotely, and the police will have a record of which students entered the room at what time.
“There’s this constant balance between security of the computers and access of the computers for students. So we could make this the Fort Knox of computers, but then students would never have access and it would be very inconvenient to them to get all of their work done,” Anderson said.
He noted Lewis’ low crime rates and expressed concern that some faculty and students feel threatened by the theft.
“Personal safety is the most important thing,” he said. “I think the cameras will help a lot in terms of alleviating that somewhat. But I understand the frustration.”