PRINCETON, NJ – At approximately 3:30pm last Wednesday, Princeton University junior Darren Matthews exited Firestone Library with a copy of Statistical Records: Census Results of Bolivia Vol.12 hidden in his backpack. Firestone library employee and on-duty bag-checker Theodore Scahill performed a routine inspection of Matthews’ bag, discovering the book and promptly alerting Public Safety of the attempted theft.
Scahill recounted his discovery of the crime for the press: “I began to suspect something when I noticed that the book in the front pocket of his backpack was sandwiched between two binders, which is sort of an unusual way to store your book; it seemed too deliberate to be innocent. I wasn’t sure, but my gut told me I should check the other sides of the book, and wouldn’t you know it, I found the Princeton University Library stamp on the inside of the cover.”
Karin Trainer, the University’s Head Librarian, praised Scahill for his quick thinking and pointed out that the event justified her long time advocacy for hiring only the most experienced bag checkers. “I don’t think that a rookie bag checker would have noticed a scheme as nefarious as this one. It’s a testament to the skill that Mr. Scahill has honed over his many years of bag-checking experience that he was able to foil this dastardly plot. A novice bag checker probably would have let the book in question go by, not thinking to check the inside cover for a stamp.”
Officers from Princeton University’s Public Safety office assured members of the media that a full investigation is underway, but that the case “seems pretty open and closed.”
Public Safety Director Steven Healy explained that results of the ongoing investigation would be revealed to the public in 72 years, for privacy purposes, but there are a few things that can already be stated with some degree of certainty: “It’s clear that this was a plot years in the making. We can only speculate at this point, but our crack investigative team has constructed a pretty accurate account of the moments leading up to what we are calling “Watermark-gate.”
Healy went on to describe the plot, which according to investigators, began before Matthews had even entered high school. On a trip to the library one day in 8th grade, Matthews developed a sudden urge to read the 1978 statistical records of various South American countries. After discovering that his junior high school library did not contain the volumes he was after, Matthews searched online. Upon discovering that Firestone Library at Princeton University contained the records in question, Matthews became obsessed with gaining acceptance to Princeton throughout high school. “We believe that at that point, Matthews began to work extremely hard in high school, earning straight As all 4 years. We’re pretty sure that his near-perfect SAT scores were motivated solely by his desire to someday get at the elite, heavily secured Firestone collections,” explained Healy.
Some students have criticized the profile created by Public Safety to explain the Matthews incident. Dylan Robinson, a Princeton sophomore who also went to high school with Matthews, described his objections to the Public Safety report: “I know Darren Matthews, and he’s a really smart kid. I think it’s extremely unlikely that he got a gold medal at the International Math Olympiad as a way to get into Princeton so he could steal some obscure book from Firestone.”
University spokeswoman Cass Cliatt expressed the administration’s support for Healy and Public Safety’s handling of the situation: “Let’s not forget that we should praise Public Safety for uncovering and stopping one of the most sinister and twisted plots against this University ever conceived.”
Public Safety Deputy Director Charles Davall echoed Director Healy’s words, also informing media of their plans to charge Matthews with intent to distribute. Davall added: “Knowledge isn’t something that you should be granted access to willy-nilly. I’m just thankful that we were able to take such a psychopath off of the campus streets. I mean, here is someone so twisted as to go so far as to perform hundreds of hours of community service both in high school and as part of the Princeton Volunteers Council, just to keep up appearances for years until he could one day get at that book.”
Dean of Admissions Janet Rapelye admitted that Matthews’ application seemed excellent on paper, but now she regrets having accepted the student. “I realize now that Darren’s participation on the varsity tennis team and his summer trip delivering aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina while still in high school were nothing but a means to an end. And that end was getting his hands on obscure volumes of South American statistical data.”
Matthews maintains that he merely forgot to check out the book and that had he not been caught he would have simply returned it when he was done.