Stealing a piece of history

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

Forty years worth of research was disappeared in less than ten minutes when a laptop was stolen last week.

Last Tuesday, James Mayfield, professor emeritus at the U, was looking for research material in the Middle East section of the Marriott Library.

Mayfield, who retired as a professor from the U in 1998, left the table he was working at to look for footnotes for his research. When he returned less than ten minutes later, his laptop was gone.

The theft of the laptop is a “tragedy,” Mayfield said, because of what it contained.

Since 1966, Mayfield, who taught political science and Middle East studies, conducted research in more than 50 villages in Egypt. He studied the political and social changes of the Egyptian villages, surveying more than 2,500 individuals in a 40-year span.

Mayfield’s computer contained 2,000 pages worth of notes- a manuscript for a book he had been transcribing since April for more than 12 hours a day, five days a week.

“I’m discouraged and frustrated,” Mayfield said. “I desperately need it back.”

Having almost 80 percent of the book completed, Mayfield hoped to publish it sometime this year.

He still has most of the raw notes and research. However, transcribing them again will take three to four months to format, pushing the publication date back at least six months.

His estimated his 40 years of data collection- 25, which he spent in Egypt- to be worth well over $50,000.

The meaning behind all his work, however, he could not put a price on.

“There were so many people involved in the making of this book over the years,” Mayfield said. “I know that it would be of great value to Egypt.”

And although Mayfield does not know who took the laptop, he said the person who seized it probably had no idea of what it contained.

“If the person who took it only knew the value of it,” he said. “If there was some way where they could send the hard drive back, I’d be willing to buy them another $2,000 computer, because I think that’s all they really wanted.”

Mayfield’s computer is the nineteenth laptop stolen this year, but the first to be taken from the Marriott Library.

Six out of the ninetee laptop thefts took place in the U Hospital.

Because the cases are still under investigation, Debra Cayias, who keeps records for campus police, said there is no way to tell how many of the stolen computers have been returned.

Lynn Rohland, sergeant with campus police, said most computer thefts happen when belongings are left unattended- even for a short amount of time.

“Theft is crime of opportunity,” Rohland said. “It can present itself anytime, even if you run off to use the restroom.”

In order to avoid theft, Rohland suggests locking offices and paying close attention to belongings at all times.

Anyone with information about Mayfield’s laptop, or any of the stolen computers is encouraged to contact campus police at 585-2677.