After a laptop belonging to Architecture Teaching Assistant (TA) , Mona Gaber, was reportedly stolen from the labs, students at AUC are worried about their belongings and safety on campus.
According to Ms. Gaber, she was working in the Architecture labs; 1083 and 1086, when her laptop went missing. “I was in-between [the classes] starting from 11:30 to 3:00; literally two classes facing each other. I was never away in a long time in either of them. I take students’ work and projects and move it from one place to the other; a process that takes between 5 to 15 minutes. I left my belongings in 1086; including my Laptop. After I was done with my duties, I discovered that the laptop is missing,” explained Ms. Gaber.
Generally when the laptop theft happened, the first thing that came to mind was that the cameras might help in this situation. According to AUC head of Security, Mr. Mohamed Ebeid, “CCTV is very useful in such cases and they helped us identify thieves in locations where they were installed (parking, registrar office, etc.).”
However, in the particular case of this laptop theft, “we don’t have cameras on labs’ entrances or in corridors,” said Mr. Ebeid.
Regardless of the difficult situation, “ the investigation team is divided into three groups and each group is carrying out a different task. One group is questioning staff/students who may have any information. The second group is investigating workers assigned in the incident’s location, and the third is communicating with the IT security office to trace the missing laptops. Also, The control room team is checking the CCTV for any clues,” explained Mr. Ebeid.
In an effort to try and find any way to locate the stolen laptop, “all groups meet almost every day to submit their findings and to discuss the next step,” added Mr. Ebeid
Ms. Gaber said that the security men looked through the architecture department and inside abandoned lockers in hopes of finding the laptop on the day of the incident itself.
The TA also contacted the head of services; however, “all she did was report that she contacted the cleaning company; a typical routine with no seriousness or active decision,” said Ms. Gaber.
It seemed as though the workers could be responsible for the theft; however, according to Ms. Gaber, the head of services had told her that, “‘securities are confident that this is not done by the cleaning company’, without even opening an investigation or talking to the security yet.”
Despite the recent change in the working staff and installation of cameras in various places on campus, “we cannot assume the responsibility of any theft case, unless we have clear evidence to get someone charged,” explained Mr. Ebeid.
Ms. Gaber stated that she had met with Mr. Ebeid the following day of the incident and that,“he is looking through the footage on campus cameras and he is following up with the investigation; looking at both potential students and service crew.”
Despite the unfortunate situation, the Dean of Students, Dr. George Marquis, has also met with Ms. Gaber and promised to help. Moreover, the cleaning company head has made a point to show the cleaning crew a photo of the laptop incase they were to find it, said Ms. Gaber.
Regardless, “saying that “thefts has increased on campus” is not accurate” as “we currently have two theft cases that we are working on seriously,” clarified Mr. Ebeid.
The security head explained that during this last month, the security guards helped several students find their lost items. It “exceeded more than 20 valuable items; including mobiles, laptops, wallets, backpacks, etc.,” said Mr. Ebeid.
Despite that AUC is supposed to be one of the safest places, “theft of opportunity could happen anywhere and it takes seconds,” explained Mr. Ebeid. Hence, the security head has made a point to remind students of the following:
- “Never leave your possessions and valuables unattended
- Do not expect that others will watch your items or offices
- Make sure that you have all your possessions while leaving the restrooms
- Place your belonging in the assigned lockers when you are using sports facilities
- Regularly backup your data
- Keep a record of the serial numbers of your electronic devices
- If you lose your ID/keys, please report it immediately to the Safety and Security office in order to take necessary measures.”
As we are all encouraged to constantly back up our work, Ms. Gaber admits that it is her fault for not doing so. “It is my fault for not backing up my data, which I understand, but when I complain and try to get help from the administration, this is what they focus on instead of realizing there is a big theft problem in their campus,” shared Ms. Gaber.
In response to the recent emails regarding campus access, Ms. Gaber said that, “we are seeing now the way they are attempting to deal with the issue by stopping the AUCians from their rights to campus instead of stopping the robbers and implementing better security plans.”
According to Mr. Ebeid, the most recent emails from the security office regarding campus access and parking rules was misunderstood, particularly the ‘valid reason’ part.
“What is a valid reason? Of course, this is your place and students take it as a second home…when someone wants to come to the lab, then of course he can come. One time, I was called at 1:30 am because someone was entering the campus alone for no reason. We asked if there was anything and if we can help him with something. He told me he had a clash with his family and can’t find a place to stay. All he wanted was to sit alone. I told him, yes of course come in, and that if he needed anything to ask,” shared Mr. Ebeid.
The security head added to explain that parents and siblings are “allowed to come at any time to the residential areas. We are flexible in these things. This is your home and your place.” However, there were 16 cases of people from outside AUC with students near the parking areas at late hours, “when people come from outside campus with alcohol, that is not acceptable,” said Mr. Ebeid.
Regardless of the difficulty surrounding the situation, Ms. Gaber remains hopeful that the laptop can be found. “I hope the person who took it would realize he/she is ruining a person’s life and the investigation is still on. I’m offering a reward for anyone who brings it back! No questions! No investigation! Just 5000 pounds cash!,” stated Ms. Gaber.
Theft can often be forgotten about or simply quieted down. However, this is no small issue, “this is my undergraduate laptop with five years of work on it, my portfolio as an architect, my thesis, and all my work. I have lost all my data. Do you see why I’m making all this fuss? It is not just a laptop. It’s my life you are dealing with,” said Ms. Gaber.
“There’s nothing to describe how it feels like to lose everything you have worked for as an undergrad,” added Ms. Gaber.
“Architecture labs were always safe. We spend more time there than in our own homes; professors and students alike,” shared the TA.
The theft had come as a surprise to the department itself. “The Chair and Professor Ahmed Sherif, Dr. Magda Mostafa, Dr. Khaled Tarabieh, Dr. Sherif Mourad and Ms. Rehab stood by my side and were shocked that this happened in our own safe haven. Many other Professors from the architectural family contacted me and I can’t be more thankful,” said Ms. Gaber.