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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Cubby holes promote disrespect to students

Published: February 28, 2014
Section: Opinions, Top Stories

It seems a bit funny whenever I walk past the little cubbies outside the C-store, intended for shoppers to leave their bags so there is no chance of shoplifting. The last time I had a cubby was in kindergarten, and it was part of the daily routine to place your backpack there before starting the day. Now that I am in college, these small enclosures pop back into my life. Maybe it’s just the word itself that gets me going—cubby. It is absurd to see it on a campus that lists neuroscience and international global studies as majors. It seems a bit immature and out of place.

But look into it more. It says something that is expected of us as college students. It says something that is expected of us as young adults. Young adults who are under the full protection, and judgment, of the law, are still expected to fall into temptation and steal from the C-store. A place with little security, crowds and an opportunity to hide in the back corner by the frozen food and simply place a box of Poptarts into your bag. Whoever installed the cubbies and put up signs asking students to store their bags there while shopping thought that every simple-minded student could not pass up this golden opportunity.

Never mind that all of us are here to receive an education, where even the slightest hint of stealing another’s intellectual work could lead to our expulsion. As 18- to 22-year-olds and older, we simply have to have the first thing our eye sees. There is no benefit of the doubt offered to students if they are being asked to store away their bags so that there is less chance that they will shoplift. Everyone is granted innocence until proven guilty, and the suspension of our rights ended as soon as we graduated from high school.

When we were accepted to Brandeis, there was something positive and useful in each and every one of us that was determined to be an asset to the school. We did something right that allowed us to matriculate here and take extensive courses with knowledgeable professors that would propel us into great careers and opportunities. We were led to believe that we were the best of the best, yet they expect us to steal.

Remember that first week of orientation, when President Lawrence, or perhaps Reinharz, welcomed the incoming first-year class to the school. He used some cliched lines about how so much will be accomplished in these next four years, all of the friends we would make, plus new discoveries both in the classroom and within ourselves. He probably mentioned how a Brandeis education would provide us with the necessary skills to lead productive lives and make us great contributors to society. Onto that, he placed forth the expectations of us to do great things with our lives, to strive to be the best both here at Brandeis and beyond. He didn’t add in his spiel that we would be expected to steal during our time at this institution, yet that is the message being put forward by these seemingly harmless wooden shelves.

Sure, everyone has thought about doing it; some of us even have walked out hiding something in our jackets. Some may find it hard to argue with the logic behind doing it. The C-store charges premium prices on products that are much cheaper at a typical supermarket, and college students paying one of the highest tuitions in the country cannot afford this extra cost. There must have been repeated occurrences that warranted the construction of cubbies to help prevent this crime spree, so it isn’t a case of paranoia. However, the presence of these cubbies shows disrespect to anyone entering the store.

It is not very comforting to walk into a situation and immediately feel as if you are guilty without having done anything wrong. At least there aren’t cameras on every corner inside the C-store to make sure no one has placed something in their bags, but I feel that utilizing surveillance equipment would make more sense than these cubbies. Video cameras would actually work in finding anyone who is shoplifting, and could potentially scare off anyone with the thought. No one uses these cubbies. I have never seen a single bag in them while walking past, and I have walked in and out of the C-store numerous times with my backpack on, and no one stops me.

Even if someone were to utilize the cubby, and say place a purse there to hide any suspicion while looking at the yogurt selection, this could present a much larger problem. If we are to assume that students will be willing to steal something as simple as a banana, then they are also liable to seek more valuable objects, like those that would be stored in a purse or backpack—a wallet or computer. Obviously it is harder to steal a laptop out of a zippered bag than sneaking a bottle of soda, but anything is possible if we are led to believe that students with so much to lose would be willing to risk it on a bag of chips. This then raises the question of what is more valuable: a student’s personal belongings or poorly-produced food?

Having these cubby holes is a half-hearted attempt to solve a problem that should not be a problem in the first place. As a member of this community, I feel that we should all turn our backs and rebuke any action that brings us down. Any sort of criminal act harms everyone on campus, because we all identify collectively as Brandeis students. Shoplifting is not something to be promoted, or praised if done successfully, and it is certainly not something to be expected of us by a higher authority. Set the students to a higher standard, and I’m sure they will exceed expectations.