By CONNOR RYAN & JOE VITALE
STAFF WRITER & MANAGING EDITOR
One moment Baby Jesus was there, the next he was gone — and in a dorm room.
Early last Saturday morning, a Fordham student was returning to Rose Hill from an off-campus party when the student reached into the black outdoor Nativity scene displayed within the Finlay Garden — one of the three outdoor scenes at Rose Hill, but the first black Nativity to be displayed at Fordham — and walked away with the Baby Jesus figure, Fordham Security confirmed.
Following an investigation, security officials discovered the missing figure in a student’s dorm room later that afternoon. The student believed to be responsible for the theft has been reported to Chris Rodgers, dean of students at Rose Hill.
Security has labeled the incident “non bias larceny” because “the investigation determined that the taking of this statue had no bias motivation for the taking and the student didn’t even realize that this was a [black] depiction,” John Carroll, vice president of Safety and Security, said via email.
No alert or information was sent to students following this incident, unlike when a student apparently carved a symbol that resembled a swastika into the grass near Martyrs’ Court last month.
It is unclear whether the student who stole the figure was intoxicated at the time of the theft, which occurred at approximately 4 a.m. on Saturday, Carroll said.
The black Nativity scene has since been moved from the Finlay Garden to the Belmont Ave. campus entrance near Faculty Memorial Hall — about 10 feet from a security booth. Carroll says the move will allow “more members of the university community [to view it] during this Christmas season.”
Rev. Philip Florio, S.J., assistant vice president for Campus Ministry, similarly praised the Nativity’s new location as “more beneficial.”
“What was a misfortune turned into something that benefits the entire community, allowing more students to be reminded of the importance of the Advent season,” he said in an interview.
The incident occurred roughly one week before the Fordham community celebrates Gaudete Sunday with Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, and gathers for the annual tree lighting and holiday reception.
Upon hearing news of the theft, many students have responded with disappointment.
“It is a shame that something like this happened especially after such an incredible and beautiful addition to the Fordham community,” says Lynn DiOrio, FCRH 13. ”I think its new location is a good idea, mainly because security is right there, but also because the other night I noticed a handful of people off campus were able to view the Nativity.”
But Christina Daniels, FCRH ’16, is not confident the Nativity’s new home will prevent a future robbery.
“I think it’s nice that [administrators] want more of the university community to see it, but I don’t think its location affected whether or not the student was going to take it or not,” she said.
Aaron DeVara, FCRH ’16, says he hopes in light of the holiday season, the punishment for the student found responsible will not be too harsh.
“I’d say that it sounds like it was handled appropriately, though it’s questionable as to how the university can verify whether it was biased or not,” he said. “Either way, it’s hardly the season to be laying down any heavy penalties.”