The art department at the college is a communial place, with a set of people who get to know each other well for several years at a time, and as old students go new ones are happily brought into the fold. For the most part, it's a very relaxed environment. People leave iPods, CDs, cell phones and backpacks just laying about in the studios with no fear of theft during school hours. The teachers, staff and security know who belongs and who does not with a nod and a smile. We all keep an eye out for each other, even down to our silly bits of electronics. Art students speak in a shorthand with one another. If someone comes in with art as an interest or a minor, chances are a few people will scrounge up a few sheets of sketch paper for you and a stick of charcoal so you can sit in on a still life or a model's pose.
For the most part this easy feeling is passed down from semester to semester, but every now and then a student comes in and things start disapprearing.
For that semester or two you'll hear us "old timers" complaining about having to put a lock on their supply drawer, and the teachers and staff will make classroom-wide pleas for the thefts to stop. The items taken are never very big or expensive --I think we had a PDA stolen once, and it was mysteriously found a week later in the head offices a block away-- but it's the principle of the thing that angers all of us.
The students in the art department like that freedom of sharing. For most things, be it a sculpting tool or a CD, we don't mind people borrowing them as long as they are cleaned and put back where they belong once you're done with them. Hell, even if we're not there and you just need to listen to Pearl Jam or use a #2 brush, please, be our guest. What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine, and do you want to meet at the coffee house later this afternoon, and do you want the last scone? I'm buying.
It just ticks me off no end when some malcontent ruins the feeling. If it's born of mischeviousness or absent-mindedness it doesn't matter. Taking things for keeps is Just Not Done, and you're ruining the system of trust.
It's doubly hard, because we know from security and our teachers that no one out of place has been there late at night or during the day. The thief is one of our "own," though they do not really belong because of their behaviour. We hate to evict anyone, literally or spiritually, but sometimes we have to, and what's worse, we want to, because of his or her own actions.