Overnight robberies at Geneva campus have students on edge

Daniel Moore

Three robberies in the span of less than three months have claimed a total of three laptops, two iPhones, one camera and a wallet with more than $400 from five Kent State students during the study abroad semester in Switzerland, according to one student.

The students who supplied information to the Stater all requested anonymity because the conflict is ongoing.

The university Tuesday denied any responsibility for the stolen items and will not compensate the students, said Eric Mansfield, executive director of University Media Relations. While he understands their frustrations, Mansfield said, the university didn’t steal the items.

“The bad guy is the person who stole these peoples’ things — it’s not the university,” he said. “If we give people a room, and we give them a lock that works, and we tell them that you’re in a foreign country and [to] lock your things up, that’s as much as we can do.”

In all incidents, the university claims the students had a working lock, key and deadbolt, Mansfield said.

“We’ve told our students from the day they arrived that, you’re in another country, and you need to be protective of your materials and yourself,” he said. “We’ll do anything we can to help them feel safe, but they’ve got to step up and do what’s incumbent on them, which is to lock your doors at night.”

On Tuesday, four days after the most recent incident, Kent State officials asked an unnamed consultant to meet with three students affected by the robberies. During the meeting, the students voiced their concerns.

“It’s not about locking the doors,” one student said. “We’ve been telling [the resident assistants] people have been coming through here who we don’t think live here for a long time, before people started to get their stuff stolen.”

The first incident allegedly occurred in September in which a laptop was taken from a common lobby on the first-floor. The second incident occurred the morning of Oct. 19 in which another student’s laptop and wallet were taken from his room.

The third incident occurred last Saturday, and involved the theft of a camera, iPhone, charging equipment and a laptop from two students, estimated at about $1,910 by their owners.

After that incident, in an email sent to Amber Bollinger, the Geneva Program officer, one of the roommates wrote that the other “had his iPhone right next to him while he slept.”

“Whether or not the door is locked, the thief is obviously still attempting to get into our rooms and steal,” he wrote. “The other Kent [State] students and I do not feel safe here.”

In his email, the student claimed parents of students on the trip are “committed to filing formal complaints against Kent State regarding the frightening and unacceptable security issues in Geneva.” He additionally requested full compensation.

“I am sure Kent State will appropriately address this situation,” he wrote.

Kent State announced earlier this semester it had ended its contract with the Geneva facility, and students will be housed next spring on the campus of Webster University. Mansfield said the move had nothing to do with the thefts.

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected].