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University searches dorm rooms looking for stolen CTA L maps

Published: Monday, May 14, 2012

Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08

Torn CTA L map

Elizabeth Murphy

The university performed a full-scale dorm room search looking for CTA maps Monday, May 7 following a story that ran in the April 23 issue of The DePaulia. The article was about students who steal CTA guides from the train cars and use them to adorn their apartments and dorms, a practice which many students say is nothing new.

In a joint response from Facility Operations, Housing Services, Residential Education and the Dean of Students Office, the university said, “DePaul initiated the search because students volunteered information to the DePaulia indicating that there was a violation of the law.”

In a recent statement the CTA said: “The Chicago Transit Authority appreciates the actions taken by DePaul University to collect stolen transit maps. More than 150 maps were recovered.”

The CTA did not indicate that they requested this action from DePaul University.

The university’s statement went on to say that the number of signs taken was not important.

“What is important is that individuals had property that did not belong to them. It was the right thing to do to secure and return any property that belonged to the CTA.”

Students in possession of the signs had their names reported to the Dean of Students whose office is determining the next steps.

The statement continued with “Students are expected to be aware of what is illegal activity and to follow local laws and DePaul policies for student conduct. This will be reinforced by Residential Education in upcoming education programs. Furthermore, students living in residence halls should be aware that their rooms are subject to searches by the university because this is detailed in residence hall policies to which all of these students agree.”

The sections referenced for the policies were Section 2 and Section 10 of the Terms and Conditions for Lincoln Park 2011-2012 as well as on page 11 of the housing guide.

The condition in the 2011-2012 Guide to Student Housing for students states:

“The privacy of each resident’s room is an important component of campus housing. Nevertheless, DePaul reserves the right to enter into and search any on-campus living space at any time for the following purposes…” (page 11).

The purposes included emergencies, to perform inspections and to close the buildings over break periods as well as to perform maintenance or repair services. The bullet point most relevant to the search last week was “When there is reasonable cause to believe a violation of any university policy is being, has been or will be committed.”

According to students who lived in the resident halls it was members of Residential Education that searched their rooms including Resident Assistants and Resident directors that searched their rooms as well as students who do scheduled room inspections each quarter.

Several students said that their things were not searched through, they just checked for the signs in areas visible when walking in to the room, like walls.

Resident’s were not informed of the searches before they occurred, but University officials followed up with an e-mail sent on Wednesday May 9.

The email stated, “The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) contacted DePaul University after a story ran in the DePaulia where several residents admitted to stealing CTA ‘L’ maps and signage. The act of stealing and/or possessing CTA signage is illegal and a felony, not to mention an embarrassing reflection on DePaul University. These actions will not be tolerated by the Departments of Housing Services or Residential Education.”

The letter then cited the Guide to Student Housing and restated its right to enter and search on-campus living spaces.

“With information in hand that CTA was missing an ample amount of train signage, Housing staff conducted an entire campus search on Monday, May 7. As a result of this search, signs were found, confiscated and are being returned to the CTA. Spring facility inspections are coming up in less than a week and if more illegal CTA signage is found within student housing it will also be confiscated and returned to CTA.”

The letter then went on to say “Residents that are illegally possessing signage or violating any university policy will be subjected to judicial follow-up and possibly prosecution by the CTA.”

According to a student whose name was taken by the Dean of Students, no one has reached out to her yet with the next step.

Students have since taken to Twitter to voice opinions on the sudden room invasion.

“RA’s and RD’s knocking on my door, waking me up from my nap, and asking for CTA maps lol,” an account tweeted.

“The fact that DePaul confiscated my #CTA posters just makes me wanna steal more!!” said another account.

“Steal more and tape them all on the housing office windows,” said an account.

According to Bob Janis, Vice President for Facility Operations, because there is an ongoing investigation it could not be revealed how many rooms were checked, if there was ever a search similar to this enacted or if this paraphernalia would be listed as something RAs or public safety officials will be regularly checking for during room inspections. There has also been no word on why there was a two week gap between the publishing of the article and the room searches.

The CTA also stated that “taking transit maps is theft. Anyone caught taking a map or any other CTA property is subject to criminal charges.”

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