Fraud, forgery, slipshod issuance of official identification. It sounds like something out of a dark 1930s crime story, not conditions that could exist on the squeaky-clean University of Houston campus.
But evidence suggests that vice is nearer than we might think. All semester, UH has been issuing Cougar OneCards, magic all-purpose identification and debit cards which will consolidate copy cards, student IDs and resident board cards into one handy piece of plastic.
However, many of these miracles were apparently handed out without the prescribed photo identification check.
So it was no surprise Thursday when Brenda Tavakoli, a petite, black-haired Daily Cougar staff member, was able to get a OneCard bearing her photo and a taller, reddish-blonde-haired colleague's information.
The OneCard office workers, student assistants whose job it was to process identification forms, check photo identification, take card photos and issue the official IDs of a state institution, didn't ask for any proof that Tavakoli was who she claimed to be. She might as well have been a tiara-ed ballerina claiming to be Chad Earl Williams.
Moreover, Jackie Mitchell, manager of the OneCard office and the student workers' supervisor, was present when the IDs were not being asked for - although a space on the required OneCard form asks office workers to either enter students' driver's license numbers or note other forms of ID presented.
Though Mitchell admitted that the lapse in security was a mistake and said it would not happen again, she refused to disclose the name of her supervisor to the Cougar.
Why such secrecy? We would like to think it has to do with shame over the fact that an office issuing official ID cards, without which existence on this campus will be virtually impossible come January, was not taking the proper course to ensure the cards are valid.
Perhaps she remembered the Moody Towers residents who were suddenly re-keyed a few weeks ago. Some reported that their identification was not checked either, giving rise to the possibility that they could waltz in and grab the key to anyone's luxury high-rise dorm room.
But this is UH, and we can't help but imagine the worst - that Mitchell felt she would not be held responsible for any mix-ups in the 12,000 OneCards already issued if she could simply keep her superiors out of the issue.
Granted, this is only one documented case of OneCard fraud. Chances are, none of the thousands of cards issued contain falsified information.
But the fact that a campus office's workers would ignore basic instructions, and that the manager of that office would not ensure her employees were following instructions, is alarming.
Let's hope this incident serves as a wake-up call to UH service staff: Serve the students you were hired to serve, and serve them properly, or you might find mysterious charges beginning to accrue on your identification card.
The gray-box editorials reflect the opinion of The Daily Cougar editorial board and editorial staff. All other opinions, letters, commentaries and cartoons reflect the viewpoint of the writer. Letters to the editor reflect only the opinion of the individual writers. No opinions expressed in The Daily Cougar necessarily reflect those of the University of Houston administration or the student body at large.