There's a joke that colleges and universities are shameless about stealing money from students, what with rapidly rising tuition costs, costly room and board charges, and more. At the City University of New York, though, an employee in the school's registrar's office actually did steal money from a student, right out of her wallet, no less. As it turns out, the employee, who has worked for the City College of CUNY for four years now, has a criminal record loaded with theft charges.
The allegations at CUNY began on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. A graduate student visited the registrar's office to pay tuition, but left her wallet on the counter. Another student soon found the wallet and turned it into one of the women working at the office, the woman with the extensive criminal record. Videotape shows the CUNY employee placing the wallet behind her monitor, then picking it up, going into another room, and allegedly stealing money from it.
When the student returned to claim the wallet, she found that it wasn't where she left it. When she approached the woman at the registrar's office to ask about it, the employee played dumb, and even offered her sympathies. That would be a shame if somebody took it, the woman said to the student, according to a recent report from The New York Post. Supposedly, there had been $1,400 in cash in the wallet.
Once campus police looked at the videos from the registrar's office, they were able to determine very easily that the money had been pocketed by an employee and not by another student. They arrested the employee on Wednesday and she was arraigned on felony grand larceny.
The arraignment wasn't the woman's first run-in with the law. On the contrary, her criminal record dates back to 1999 and features a laundry list of both misdemeanor and felony charges, the vast majority of which involve theft. In 2005, she was arrested and charged on four separate theft charges. Her record also shows a history of identity theft and fraud, and she even spent three years in prison after her 2005 spree of criminal activity.
In other words, she was about the worst possible choice for CUNY to hire to a post in the registrar's office. There, she would not only have been in charge of helping students with tuition payments, but would also have been given access to sensitive student information, like names, addresses, birthdays, and Social Security numbers. She could have easily stolen any number of identities in her post at the school.
So how was this woman, with her very messy criminal record, ever allowed into a position where she could have done so much harm? Because the City University system evidently does not run background checks on its employees. That's right: the school didn't know about their employee's criminal record, simply because they never bothered to look.
CUNY charges about $6,000 a year for full-time students who are residents of New York State. That number increases to $16,000 for out-of-state students. And yet, the university is not offering those students ample protection from criminals like the woman who was just caught stealing in the registrar's office. The school should be running background checks on all of its employees, and workers given access to financials and sensitive student information should absolutely be first in line.