Op-Ed: Illicit phone calls cost students cash

Unauthorized code use is a crime, and Nathan Converse is wrong (“Code use is no crime,” Feb. 20, p. 5). Mr. Converse indicts the University for hypocritical behavior in its handling of the long distance code problem. How so, Mr. Converse? I do not deny the importance of “mistakes…(that) have cost friends of mine literally thousands of dollars,” and the missing paycheck. The word “mistakes” is correct in those cases, but the use of a long distance telephone code by someone other than the person to whom it was assigned is not a mistake.

It would be difficult to convince me that the unauthorized users of the code were unaware of the fact that the University had not decided to provide them with free long distance service. They knew that they were using a code that was not theirs. That is theft and there is no way around it. Stealing money from the University will not repay those who lost money through mistakes made by financial aid or payroll.

As to the “it won’t make any difference” argument, Mr. Converse says, “One free phone code, even when used by thousands of students, has neither raised tuition nor depressed AT&T’s profits.” Well, Mr. Converse, tuition does continue to go up. Why is that? All large companies lose money from employee theft. “I can take home this ream of paper. The company has plenty. They will never miss it,” sounds a great deal like “I can use this long distance code. GW has plenty of money. It’s not really costing them anything.” The buck has to stop somewhere, and sooner or later the stopping point is our pockets, Mr. Converse’s included.

When you go to a museum and find a sign posted next to a painting reading, “Do Not Touch,” do you touch the canvas anyway? What will happen to that work of art eventually if everyone who comes in says to herself, “It won’t matter if I touch it. One little touch will not hurt.” Maybe one little touch will not hurt, but thousands will, if not today, sooner or later. Can we afford to be that self-indulgent at the expense of everyone else?

Go ahead, Mr. Converse, and cheat and steal from your neighbor, provided you do not mind that he will return the favor. The phone code was not the property of the students who used it without authorization. Your argument is a simple case of “everybody else is doing it (for “everybody” read “the University”) is doing it, so why shouldn’t I. I submit that this is unethical behavior.

-The writer is executive coordinator for academic scheduling in the Registrar’s Office.

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