News - March 27, 2014

Lost property

Nicolette Meerstadt

Specs, USB sticks, telephones, debit cards: students leave quite a trail of possessions behind them when they have been on campus. Everything that is not retrieved or pocketed by someone else ends up in Lost Property. But what happens to it after that? Resource took a look.

At the Bongerd something gets left behind every day, a staff member shows me. In a store stand shelves full of abandoned sports equipment such as sticks and racquets, as well as a mountain of water bottles. There is a pot of Nutella in amongst it all, in the corner there is a pile of towels and there is a big tub of garments. Items of property accidentally left behind by their owners are regularly found in the teaching and sports buildings of Wageningen UR. There are instructions for dealing with these items. Clothing, books and exercise books are ‘disposed of’ after three months. Purses and debit or credit cards are kept in the safe and can only be collected if ID is produced. USB sticks and keys are kept in a separate crate for three months and then thrown out.

Surely you would miss that?
But in practice, the building staff make their own decisions to a great extent. At the Bongerd, the mother of one of the staff picks up the clothing when the tub is full. She washes it and takes it to a charity. In the education buildings it is less clear where the items end up. In the new Orion, nothing has been discarded yet, and the harvest of a year is lying there: winter coats, pencil cases, dozens of keys, scarves and calculators. At the secretariat it has not yet been determined where it should all go, because it seems such a shame just to throw it out. But something will have to be done with it soon. The top item in the Forum item is the USB stick, says a staff member. Every week a handful of them are handed in at the reception desk. Hundred of them are lying in trays spread around the building. Now and then the janitors take a good look through them, to see if they can identify the owners. That is not easy, because there are often an awful lot of documents on the stick, with several versions and several students’ names on them. And if students are emailed, they often do not bother to come and pick up their things. Or they only come along months later. In many cases, the reception desk worker understands that, as there is a lot of junk. But sometimes there is a winter coat, a car key or a backpack. She shakes her head in bafflement, ‘Surely you would miss that?’

Photo: Stuff left behind in the Forum (‘O’), Orion (‘S’) and the Bongerd (‘L’ and ‘T’). The harvest of lost property in the Leeuwenborch was very small.