$6000 worth of darkroom equipment reported missing: Former TA speaks on NCPD investigation

 

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BY MAGDALENE TAYLOR AND ELAN WORKS

The potential theft of darkroom equipment over the summer has come to the attention of the student body after a Student Allocations Committee (SAC) meeting revealed that theft of $6000 worth of darkroom equipment was missing. At the time of the meeting, no formal investigation had occurred by the New College Police Department (NCPD). Following the SAC meeting and the increased concern for the darkroom by the student body as a result of the meeting, the NCPD is now in the midst of an investigation.

The SAC meeting, which took place on Oct. 16, had darkroom Teaching Assistant (TA), and third-year Sabrina Finn, requesting funding to replace the missing items. At the beginning of the semester, Finn began her duties as darkroom TA, with previous darkroom TA and alum Tricia Johnson (‘12) having graduated in the spring.

As the SAC minutes state, Finn initially did not have a key to the darkroom, and had to have a new one made. The previous key remained in the possession of Johnson, who was unable to return the key in the spring after a family emergency forced her to leave Sarasota. Johnson was unable to return to Sarasota until after she returned from a job in Europe. The original key that Johnson possessed was given back to Dawn Shongood, Student Government Business Manager/Coordinator, this fall.

Other than the original and remade key, the only other existing key to the darkroom was in the possession of the NCPD. Though there is a yearly list of people who are able to borrow the key from the NCPD to access the darkroom, that list does not carry over from year to year. At the time of reporting, a key list for the darkroom for this academic year does not exist. The NCPD furthermore does not have a documented list of occasions when people borrowed the darkroom key between March and September of this year. At least one student was able to get access to the NCPD’s darkroom key without having been on the list.

In an email to Dawn Shongood, the NCPD confirmed that by June 1, 2016 they would stop letting students borrow copies of their darkroom key for the summer. This narrows the window in which the equipment went missing from six months to four months, from June 1 until  Sept. 15, when Shongood confirmed Finn had been given a key.

Once Finn gained access to the darkroom, she found the room to be in a state of disarray, which Johnson explains to be the result of her unforeseen departure, and furthermore entirely lacking in cameras. The SAC minutes as well as minutes from the Council for Student Life (CSL) meeting report that the darkroom was seen to have empty beer cans, potentially connected to alleged partying said to have occurred within the darkroom on nights such as Center of the Universe Party (COUP), formerly known as Palm Court Party (PCP). Johnson disputes the claim that any partying, or specifically drinking of alcohol, occurred in the darkroom during her time as TA, stating instead that she had only used the room occasionally for storage of her and her friends’ items on such nights.

In a Facebook interview, Johnson said: “At Graduation PCP, I allowed some friends to keep their bikes and bags and such in the darkroom during the event, but kept the keys on me throughout the night and let people in as they needed to use the room.”

Johnson reports that after graduation COUP, the cameras that are now missing were in their designated cabinet in the locked darkroom. The cabinet itself required a lock, though according to Johnson was occasionally difficult to lock.

“The cameras were in the darkroom when I locked up for summer,” Johnson said.

What occurred between Johnson last locking the darkroom in the spring and Finn re-opening it in the fall remains a case for the NCPD.

Both the SAC and CSL minutes include other darkroom items such as film and chemicals as missing, though Johnson asserts that the darkroom traditionally runs on a low stock of these items.

“In its very nature the darkroom is a place of exploration and experimentation. Since most people who use the space are mostly self-taught, there has always been and will always be some destruction that occurs in the space as they figure out which techniques work and which do not,” Johnson said.

“That is a large part of why the TAs traditionally maintained low stock of chemicals and such – while there was a high interest in the darkroom and using it, more often than not it was likely that someone who was not fully aware of the intricacies of the processes would ruin whole batches of paper and chemicals by accident,” Johnson said, explaining this as a natural component of working in a darkroom primarily used by people exploring the medium.

All major items in the darkroom have a barcode, according to Johnson, which can be used by the NCPD if a stolen item is later sold to a pawn shop. No items from the darkroom have yet been retrieved.

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