Looking Back: Cash box stolen from Book Swap event in 2000

Bridget Janis, Staff Reporter

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The Oakland University Student Congress (OUSC) ran its annual Book Swap event in January 2000 with an unwanted surprise. Though it was a huge benefit to students, the event took a turn and became the second year in a row the money raised was stolen. 

According to Nick Mitchell, student body president at the time, roughly 90 students gave books to sell. About 30 of those students bought books, and the total book swap money raised was $1,300. The cash box containing the hard-earned cash and checks was taken from the OUSC office.

This book swap theft was not something new to the OUSC. The year before, the money raised was also stolen. The cash box was left unattended in the Fireside Lounge then was put inside the OUSC safe. The following Monday, an OUSC member opened the box to find nothing inside and the money missing. The mystery was never solved, but the money ended up being reimbursed by Student Body President Scott Andrews, who took money from an OUSC account to make up the difference

While closing up the book swap in 2000, the cash box was misplaced and put on the cart with all the books instead of straight into the OUSC office. 

There was a claim that the cash box was still on the cart with the books when OUSC members returned to the office on Monday. After two days of the box not showing up, Mitchell decided to contact the OU Police Department to report the cash box as stolen sometime between Monday, Jan. 17 and Wednesday, Jan. 19.

But the OU police reported there was no sign of forced entry into the office. Multiple people had keys to this office including the 27 students, maintenance and police. Another theory was the thief could have entered the office through the Student Program Board office right next door, with about 12 students possessing keys to that office.

Some of the students who bought books just for the book swap ended up losing money because of the misplacement of the cash box. Mitchell mailed reimbursement checks to the 30 students who lost money during the book swap.

“We will personally contact everyone who sold a book. We’ll send out postcards,” Mitchell said then. “I am terribly sorry for any inconvenience that this has caused to anyone. But rest assured, you will be paid.”

To repay the students, $800 of the $1,300 was taken from the leftover money allowed to fund the book swap and the remaining $500 was taken from the OUSC general funds.

Hoping to prevent the theft from happening a third year in a row, Mitchell planned to sit down with the president- and vice president-elects for the next year to advise them with the lessons and security precautions he learned. 

“Storing the box in the Center for Student Activities office would be the best solution to this problem,” Mitchell said.