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Illustration by Liene Magdalēna

Stealing Stuff On Campus Is The Most Responsible Thing You Can Do

Honestly, stealing someone’s stuff on campus is one of the most responsible things you can do to help the community.

Mar 9, 2019

Purha Biits, Class of 2021, returned from the restroom of a foreign cafe to discover her laptop, phone, wallet, water bottle and double chocolate croissant she left unattended on hertable outside were all swiped by thieves. Having spent years being lulled into a false sense of security by the general safety experience at NYU Abu Dhabi, she had entirely forgotten about the concept of thievery. As a result of her traumatic foreign experience, she now questions the campus norm of respecting other people’s things.
“It’s really a toxic culture!” Biits explained, “The only reason this happened was because I learned to trust strangers in public spaces. By not stealing things left out in the open, students here are encouraging social behaviors that are unbelievably problematic in the long-term. Honestly, stealing someone’s stuff on campus is one of the most responsible things you can do to help the community.”
Even though no bystander would question someone calmly and confidently picking up an abandoned laptop, public theft at NYUAD remains frustratingly rare on campus.
Indeed, Biits claims that expecting her peers to be decent people who don’t pilfer her things has given her too much faith in humanity. Biits, and those like her, argue that the temptation to be kinder than necessary shouldn’t distract students from preparing for the battle royale of real life.
“Better to punish stupidity than reward trust, that’s what I always say!” said Associate Administrator Ravin Oldman. “Kids these days are soft and care for each other too much. The world is a hard place, so they need some hard lessons. Anything less than cold, hard truth will leave them weak and charitable.”
Oldman has been pushing for cultural reform on campus for half a decade. Latching onto Biits’ story, he now seeks to eradicate the social norm of respecting other people’s unattended stuff. He proposes students ought to begin stealing unattended objects and posting them on the NYUAD Free and For Sale Facebook Page.
There are but two obstacles in his way: over a thousand community members who think stealing is – on the whole – bad, and almost as many security cameras as there are NYUAD students in Tbilisi on fall break.
Alas, since theft is, in fact, illegal, and all public spaces have at least 19 cameras switched on at any given time, there is very little motivation to steal the – sometimes very valuable – possessions left strewn about campus. Even for students without a stipend, the cost benefit analysis never plays out well. With this restriction, NYUAD has developed the dangerous norm of not absconding with others' things.
This has led to some truly horrifying consequences.
Owuuv Ensquaird, Class of 2020, abandoned her laptop outside the Library Cafe for almost 18 months while it tried to process a data set using bubble-sort. After studying away and interning in New York over the summer, she returned to find that all the underclassmen assumed her computer was an experimental art piece. Interactive Media classes had begun taking regular field trips to study it and Serco had even installed a plaque labeling it as “Untitled.”
We must blame all of this on the virtuous community norms that enabled such a travesty.
However, there exists a ray of hope. The few cases where objects mysteriously disappear from students’ bedrooms and the laundry rooms demonstrates NYUAD has the capacity for not only negligence but malice.
“If only what people felt safe doing behind closed doors was acceptable in public,” declared Biits, “maybe we’d erode the trust that binds the community together. It’s the only way to ensure that we’re prepared for the heartless world set up by previous generations.”
For now, Biits can try to be more aware of surroundings and make choices befitting the environment. But should some get their way, she may never again need fear the spectre of a community trying to be better than petty criminals.
Ian Hoyt is a satire columnist. Email him at
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