Craccum busts an abandoned building on campus used to store confidential information
An entire box of expired, unopened Soju sits in the middle of one of the rooms. In another, an office chair with the lining ripped off, an old Shads bar sign, and a whiteboard with figures from 2015. In the main space, a 2020 Clubs Expo magazine sits on a table, complete with a layer of dust heavier than on top of your flat fridge: this is the University’s best kept secret. The best part? Craccum found this abandoned space all by accident.
Let us set the scene: this all started a week or so ago, when someone tried to come see us up in the office. This is difficult to find at the best of times, but we were surprised to so quickly get a text saying that they were there but it ‘didn’t look like anyone worked there.’ They definitely weren’t in our office, where we were sitting at that very moment. With a little bit of back and forth, we quickly figured out where our missing guest really was.
Turns out, they were in our old office space, from some 10 years ago. This space was clearly unlocked, but completely abandoned. So what do we do, when dangled with a carrot of an abandoned space on campus? We go in and take a nice nosy around. We’re quick to point out here that in addition to doing anything to chase a good story for our readers, five out of 13 (or as we like to say, 38%) of Craccum’s editorial staff are law students. A quick check for signage revealed absolutely nothing telling us to keep out, and of course, the door is literally unlocked—what we are doing is certainly no act of trespass, and we’ll be sure to plead this defence to any University administration pissed off at our snooping around.
Inside, we take a look around, and we’re all thinking the same thing: ‘this is fucking nice.’ Much nicer, we’ll point out, than our current lot, weaselled away on Level 4 of the Student Union Building, with an inaccessible access to students with disabilities, and, the additional requirement of us having to cut through C-space and disturb all the students gathering in there just to get into the office. Our current office is no bigger than the average bedroom in a Mount Eden flat, and supposed to accommodate all 13 staff, even though we’ve been promised a new office for the last three years. This illustrious abandoned space we’re standing in now? A spacious main room, and at least EIGHT individual offices jutting in different directions off that. Our editor-in-chief Mairātea comments, “I’ll come in here and clean it up myself if they’ll let us have it back as an office space.” In the back of all our minds we’re picturing the office parties we could throw in here. Back in our desolate current office, fitting all 13 staff members inside would amount to nothing fun except a health and safety violation.
However, a quick conversation with Simon Neale, the University’s Property Manager, reveals that our dreams are not going to eventuate: the abandoned space will not be abandoned for much longer. Simon lets us know that, “The space… is scheduled to become the Muslim Prayer Room for the City Campus. This has been designed and was recently tendered so the work to convert the space will commence construction in April and is due to be ready for our communities to use in Semester 2 this year.” This is really exciting news for the Muslim community on our City Campus, and we’re incredibly glad to see them getting a new private space to worship during their university day.
Our real bone to pick comes later in the week, when we go back for a second look over at the room frozen in time. The space definitely appears to have been abandoned for years. Certainly, past Craccum editors told us that it has not been used as our office for at least seven or eight years, and the layer of dust on top of the 2020 Clubs Expo magazine would tend to stack up with that story. In the interim, it seems it’s been used as a storage space for AUSA and Shads, which on the face of it, wouldn’t seem problematic: they’re running low on space, and while the space is unused, it makes sense for them to keep surplus equipment and confidential documents there. Wait, confidential documents, you say? Yes, our dear reader.
This is where our story takes a turn.
In one of the empty office spaces, openly accessible to any member of the public, sit several large cardboard boxes. A quick look reveals these to be filled to the brim with confidential Shads employment documents, and financial information. We’re talking tax deduction forms, emergency contacts, entire employment agreements and financial schedules. If you worked at Shads anytime around 2017, I could’ve been in your Mum’s dm’s in 10 seconds flat.
However, obviously this is not how we operate—as the ethical workers we are here at Craccum, as soon as we figure out what we’re looking at, we put some unmarked paper on top of the files to dissuade people, close the boxes, and get in touch with Shads.
I may be struggling my way through employment law this semester, but there’s one thing I am sure of: leaving confidential employee documents lying around in a publicly accessible space definitely is not legal. I’m running on the adrenaline of a good story, feeling like Sherlock fucking Holmes for my detective work. As Patty Gower would say, “This is the fucking news.”
Shads responds almost immediately, informing us that, “Current Shadows Management were made aware in 2022, that rooms on Level 4, had been used to store leftover equipment from the previous Shadows site, this was cleared in late 2022, these to my knowledge remained secure until such a time as my team had cleared these spaces. At the time, the room in which these files were stored was being used to store items from other AUSA entities, this also being kept secured. Shadows staff did not have access to this space, nor was anyone made aware that any items belonging to Shadows had been left in this space.”
They’re also quick to point out that they have immediately removed all these files after our email, and sure to their word, when I go back alone the next morning to check, all boxes of files have been removed. At this point, though, the Soju is all still there, and so are hundreds of boxes of pads and tampons I’d missed seeing the previous day. Like the true opportunist I am, I take a single box of tampons. Thanks, AUSA. I can actually afford to have my period this week.
Although the boxes have been hastily removed, this highlights how much of a problem it actually was. It quickly becomes clear that there’s been some significant negligence that resulted in these files being left lying around in the first place.
So, with Shads absolving themselves of the blame, we move on. Next step: following the scent, we get in touch with AUSA. President Alan Shaker responds to our email saying he “was not personally aware of this, but will be discussing it with (his) team.” At this stage we’re unsure what the outcome of this will be, and which entity specifically was responsible for this massive oversight, but there is one thing we are sure of: someone, somewhere, is about to get their ass kicked.
We trust that the situation will be appropriately investigated over at AUSA, and we thank them and Shads both for their quick cooperation. If you’re a squatter or a young hopeful looking to score free piss or a place to party this weekend, you’re out of luck: thanks to us, this ominous space is now officially locked and secured until official construction commences in April. What can we say? The news moves quickly, people.