Friday, September 22

Thefts prompt aggressive protective measures


Jacqueline Djedje noticed the two koras from West Africa were stolen minutes before a class presentation for her African American musical heritage course this fall. She and three other faculty members in the department glanced at each other with solemn expressions while recounting this recent memory.

Five decades of musical artifacts were stolen from the ethnomusicology and music departments at UCLA last spring, and while mourning their loss, department heads are retaliating with increased security and protection of their assets.

“We are taking an aggressive stance on this. We are attacking on multiple fronts on different levels. “¦ An infrastructure is in place and it is growing,” said Glen Rewal, computer resource manager for Herb Alpert School of Music.

“It’s safe to say that if an intruder were to go in and try to compromise any given area, that UCPD would be here within minutes, if not sooner,” added Martha Rider, management services officer for the departments of ethnomusicology and music and the Herb Alpert School of Music, in a group interview with Rewal, Djedje, who is the department chair, and Donna Armstrong, who is the chair’s assistant.

Djedje’s eyes welled as she remembered the beginnings of the department, which was founded as the Institute of Ethnomusicology by Mantle Hood in 1960 and later branched into its own department in 1989. After receiving her Ph.D. in music from UCLA in 1978, Djedje returned as a faculty member in 1979 only to watch the collection of authentic, international instruments grow extensively until now.

“All of these decades, those instruments have been there and no one has even thought to take them because they were just so precious; we would go this space with pride,” she said.

Rider, whose tenure is decades shorter but just as deep, felt the same loss.

The thefts have disturbed students and faculty as well, for other reasons. The department has recently restricted access to the rooms that house the instruments ““ rooms that also serve as practice venues for the students.

“It’s only professors who can get in, which is ridiculous because I used to go practice there every day and now I don’t have access to the rooms,” said Jake Jamieson, a fourth-year ethnomusicology student.

Citing safety concerns, the department has done little to notify students of the new security measures after informing students of the thefts in an e-mail last spring. While instructors have noticed and pointed out the new security cameras, no formal announcement has been made.

“To be honest, I haven’t heard anything from the department that’s a positive change to solving the problem,” Jamieson said.

Abhiman Kaushal, adjunct assistant professor in the department of ethnomusicology, has also voiced concern over the restrictions.

“It’s a case of anxiety for me because if they are not able to practice “¦ it will affect their performance in the class,” he said, as students are scheduled to perform for him for a grade at the end of the quarter.

Aside from the cameras, the department declined to comment on the exact details of the new security method.

Rewal and Djedje would not disclose the amount of funding allocated or the budget from which it came for the new security installations.

“To disclose an amount reflects the scope of the project, which I’m not ashamed of at all. It’s quite large but I don’t think that’s really a concern for anybody,” Rewal said.

There have been no reported thefts since the installation.

“It’s not even final how funding is going to play out, we’ve just gone ahead. And we will take care of the funding issues later,” Rider said.

According to Nancy Greenstein, university police spokeswoman, there are no leads or suspects and it is an open investigation. Anyone with information on the thefts is encouraged to contact UCPD.

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