A musician without an instrument to play is not a musician. The recent thefts that took place in GW’s Department of Music left several student musicians without their instruments, and the University should do what it can to fix the situation and prevent it from happening again.
The students who are calling for the University to pick up the tab for this stolen property should be reimbursed for a very simple reason. The students who lost instruments were storing them with the expectation that the University was keeping their property safe. They were not only encouraged by music department officials to store their belongings there, but they also used locks provided by GW. This is the identical situation imagined when bailment law was written, and it is clear the University has a responsibility to pay for items taken under its care.
While GW lawyers could argue the nuances of bailment law, the University would be better off admitting a failure to warn students that the Academic Center lockers just aren’t safe and pay for the mistake. A portion of the thousands of dollars lost is likely to covered by insurance, so GW should cover the rest.
What’s more troubling than the University washing its hands of the liability is the glaring security holes that still exist more than a month after the thefts occurred. People still have no trouble getting into the Academic Center basement without identification, and the only safeguard against theft is the periodic patrolling by University Police. Obviously burglars know that expensive equipment is stored in the music department, so why is GW acting like it doesn’t?
The solution to these problems are simple. Waivers could be given to all music students informing them of the risk they are taking. Video cameras could be installed, and security guards at the Academic Center entrance could do their jobs by checking GWorld cards. A GWorld card-swiper for access to sensitive areas containing instruments would be a good approach. As an extra precaution, GW could also offer insurance plans to students when they rent lockers.
But the University is not solely at fault here. Student musicians need to exercise more caution. Leaving instruments in a locker, especially over long breaks, is asking for trouble.