Professor loses exams to thief

By Bryan D. Hance

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The theft of a history professor's briefcase containing midterm exams has given some students a second chance to establish their test grades.

History professor David Ortiz Jr.'s black leather briefcase was stolen from his office in the Social Sciences Building between 11:50 a.m. and 12:10 p.m. last Thursday.

Inside the briefcase were 31 midterm exams from his History 103 class and his wallet, keys and other personal belongings. The rest of the exams were with his teaching assistant, Ortiz said.

"The only reason that the exams were in there, obviously, was because of the timing," said Ortiz. "I had put the stuff in there to get ready to carry it over to distribute the papers."

Ortiz said he left the door to his office, which is next to the stairwell exit, open.

"I was in and out of my office, and each of the first couple of times I was in and out the briefcase was still there," Ortiz said. "But it was also the quick span that happens to overlap during the peak hours in between classes. People were in and out of these hallways and the exit is right there. I think someone just saw the opportunity because my door was open. If you saw someone walking out of this office, how could you tell it wasn't theirs?"

Ortiz called UAPD and went to explain the situation to his class before calling to cancel his credit cards.

"Of all the things that were gone I knew I could rectify almost everything except the fact that the exams were gone, so I wanted to go and talk to the class first," he said.

The History Department was notified Friday that the briefcase had been found at Burger King, 1005 North Campbell Ave. Ortiz retrieved it and found that only six of the 31 exams were still inside.

Ortiz said everything that was in his briefcase to begin with was still in there, with the exception of the exams, three or four credit cards, his cash and a pen and pencil set.

Ortiz said he doubts the theft was planned because the stolen exams belonged to the highest scoring half of the class.

"How could they benefit from throwing away the exam grades when they threw away only the good ones?" said Ortiz. "There were 31 exams in my briefcase, and the 25 that they threw away were the As, Bs and Cs. The six that were left were Ds and Es. How could this benefit anyone?"

He said that while the missing exams were his greatest worry, he was glad to have the briefcase returned.

Ortiz assured his students the day the case was stolen that they would not have to retake the exam. Ortiz says he reconstructed the grades by memory, but is offering two options to students whose exams are still missing if they disagree with the grade he remembers.

One option, he said, is to talk over the exam and the student can be given an oral grade.

Or, 10 percent of the midterm can be applied to the next paper and the other 10 percent can be applied to the final.

"What can I tell you," Ortiz told his class on Tuesday. "I'm sorry, but if someone wouldn't have stolen my papers you would have grades and we wouldn't have to do this."

Ortiz said most students are taking the grades he remembers.

"Judging by some of the students' reactions in class I think they're accepting it, but a few have come and said they would like to try the oral test," said Ortiz.

Jared A. Isaacman, an elementary education junior whose midterm is still missing, expressed his annoyance.

"I feel that he should have given the same test over again," he said. "It's not fair to give the benefit to the 25 students whose tests he cannot reproduce."

Iren Hammerbekk, an anthropology sophomore, said she agreed with Ortiz's decision.

"He could have been like 'I remember and this is how it is,' but, he's showing us that we're not just sitting there and have to take what he says," Hammerbekk said.

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