A number of years ago, I took a bus trip from Los Angeles to Kansas City. I thought it would be a fun way to see the country. My parents reminded me that my grandmother once took a bus from Pittsburgh to Dayton to visit us and then insisted that they buy her a plane ticket home. “Oh, she was just over-reacting,” I thought. “It can’t be that bad.”

My friends, it can be that bad. Each bus stop was filthier and more crime-ridden than the last. Also, one peculiarity of bus travel I was not previously aware of was that passengers spend a lot of time in bus stations. A good rule of thumb is to expect to spend as much time sitting in a bus station as sitting on a bus.

Phoenix was worse than LA. Albuquerque was worse than Phoenix. Amarillo was worse than Albuquerque. But it wasn’t until we were pulling into Oklahoma City that the bus driver made the announcement, “This bus station is in a bad neighborhood.”

Evidently it would not be enough to keep your bags next to you; it was strongly recommended that we have our bags in hand the entire time. I thought, “That must really be saying something.”

Perhaps now you will understand what I mean when I write that George Mason University reminds me of the Oklahoma City bus station.

Theft on this campus is rampant and not just limited to items of actual value.

As a graduate student with a checkered undergraduate history, I’ve spent a lot of time on a variety of college campuses.

However, it wasn’t until I got to Mason that I was confronted with bus station-esque warnings of constant thievery.

How can a university so thoroughly fail in a key component of its mission? The reason taxpayers fund this school isn’t just to help you be a richer adult. It is also to increase the overall quality of life in Virginia by filling it with a more civil populace.

At my undergraduate school, my cell phone fell out of my pocket.

Someone found it and turned it in to a worker, who called the most-recently dialed number to tell them to let me know where to get it. A few hours later, it was back in my hand.

Last week, I misplaced my calendar. It retails for $3.67 at Wal-Mart and was rendered virtually useless to anyone else with all my scheduled events. The front page had my name, address, phone number and e-mail address. Yet a week later, I have not been contacted, and none of the campus lost-and-founds have it.

One of three things has happened: some incredibly destitute student who couldn’t afford his own $3.67 planner is now using it; some incredibly merciless student threw it away; or some incredibly creepy student is now stalking me.

Why not call me? Why not turn it in?

If either of those is too much hassle, why not leave it alone for me to come back to later when I realize it’s missing?

Of course, losing my planner is an inconvenience, but not a horrible thing. But the culture of theft that pervades this campus is a horrible thing.

It makes us all feel less secure and lowers the perceived quality of a Mason education. After all, how much good can a university do if it turns out graduating classes full of criminals?

We pride ourselves on being more advanced than our ancestors, but by which scale is a hyper-educated thief an advancement?
Mason students need to get serious about ending theft.

I came here to attend a world-class university, not college classes taught in a bus station.