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L.A. Valley College Employees Should Be Prime Suspects in Van Nuys Campus Burglaries

by Anonymous
A Media Arts Department Laptop valued at six thousand dollars was reported stolen from Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys/North Hollywood. If “The best predictor of future behavour is past behavour”, documents suggest that the Media Arts Department Faculty/Staff should be the prime suspect.
In 2021, a Media Arts Department Laptop valued at six thousand dollars was reported stolen from Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys/North Hollywood.

Evidence suggests the L.A. Valley College Media Arts Department Employees should be the prime suspects.

In an article published by Valley Star News ‘Inside job’ suspected in campus felonies’ Eric Swelstad gave an interview he pointed a finger at it being an inside job;

“Eric Swelstad, Media Arts Department Chair, had his MacBook Pro stolen in July. The computer was specifically tailored for the department. Swelstad said the device was purchased in May using “taxpayer dollars via a Career Transfer grant.”

“Somebody had a key and got in because there was no forced entry and took my [MacBook Pro] laptop,” said Swelstad. “It is spooky and very frustrating because it’s an expensive item, and we work with these people. These are people we trust. It’s definitely an inside job.”

John Hooker, supervisor of the mailroom at the Administration and Career Advancement building, had boxes of electronics and three identical MacBook Pro laptops in his office the day of the theft. The perpetrators managed to take Swelstad’s laptop that was at the top of a stack, as Sheriffs believe someone startled the thieves away.”

But this isn’t the first time concerns about equipment in the LAVC Media Arts Department disappearing.

Student 1’s Accreditation Complaint included a request for change in policy under demand 7.


“Full and un-restricted access by students to Media Arts equipment purchased with Grants including VTEA surveys, for student projects and policy every single Cinema/Media Arts class. Policies prohibiting using Media Arts department equipment for non-in-class or class related instructional purposes.”


This was a re-iteration of the complaint originally brought to Scott Svonkin, then President of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees in 2014;


“The Media Arts Department to my knowledge only really utilize's the equipment when it is some form of project that is attached to an instructor or student group. Virtually every single Cinema class I have sat through we have been repeatedly told we could not use the Media Arts labs, or department equipment for student projects required as part of our course work.”


During the two years between the complaint to Svonkin and to Accreditation Commission, additional concerns were voiced to Media Arts Faculty Members and the Campus Ombudsman that equipment was either missing, not cataloged, or not available.

On November 5, 2015, an email from Media Arts Faculty Member Chad Sustin to a student describes new sound recording equipment having been purchased, but not cataloged by the Department. It also mentioned Department Chair Eric Swelstad authorizing check-out of equipment not yet cataloged.


“RE: Cinema 123 Sound Equipment Check-out
Sustin, Chad A. Thu 11/5/2015 12:25 PM


Thank you As for the new mics and recorders, none of them have been processed through the system yet therefore they cannot be checked out quite yet. I don't think Prof. Swelstad knew that when he told you it was okay to check them out. That process may take some time. I would suggest you use one of the Marantz recorders. They are very good recorders (if used properly...which you know since you took C110!) and should be just fine for your project. Let me know if you would like to check that out.
-Prof. Sustin”


However, months later, the equipment still was not cataloged or available to students per another email from Chad Sustin dated March 27, 2016.


Sustin, Chad A.
Sun 3/27/2016 2:58 PM


First of all I have to comment on how surprised I am that you are considering quitting the class. What happened? Does it have anything to do with the situation you're going through with the lab?

Did you get my most recent email to the class and the Portal posting? I've detailed exactly what we are doing through the end of April. The rest of the semester is detailed on the syllabus.

Yes, you will have to record sounds for your final project. It is up to you whether you use the Marantz or rent equipment on your own. This may be the perfect opportunity for you and a couple other students to pool your REDACTED credit together and rent some equipment. The Zoom recorders are still going through the LACCD/LAVC/Media Arts inventory process and will not be available this semester. I made mention of that earlier in the semester. With the alternatives that I've put in place for you guys though, you should be set.

Lab hours will not be changing as far as I know. You may check out equipment during that time and yes, I will be available to check in/out equipment when we get back from break.

Please check out the email I sent and the Portal posting if you have not done so already and let me know if you have any other questions.

-Prof. Sustin


But after a follow-up email to Scott Svonkin, the uncatalogued equipment was mysteriously made available.

This was followed by a complaint made to the Campus Ombudsman Annie Reed, about the fact that only two laptops with required pro-tools software were available for in-class use by a class of twenty or thirty students – DESPITE Los Angeles Valley College being explicitly awarded a Grant for this training.


Lap top Matter
Goldman, Annie
Tue 4/19/2016 9:48 AM
Cc: Nalepa, Laurie


More good news. Dr. Nalepa investigated your question/concern relating to the 12 lap top computers. I think what mislead you and the other students in your class, was that your instructor did not know, and had no reason to know, how the distribution of college equipment operates with this group of lap tops.

The 12 lap tops were purchased by 2 grants. However, these computers are not always available at the same time for student and faculty use. When equipment is purchased, faculty and students share usage privileges.

Here is the breakdown:

2 computers at the time of Chad’s announcement were available for students

2 computers were being serviced by IT and have now been returned for students

6 computers are being used by faculty for IDEAS projects (These 6 were purchased by IDEAS)
3 computers are currently being used by departmental faculty for other classes”


This however left students with only four laptops to share in a large class – a situation commented on by one of the ‘Dozen LAVC Cinema Student Narratives’ by Narrative 7, April 25, 2016.


Sometimes at Valley I feel like an outsider is looking in. I am not as active in the film community as my fellow students, but I feel that I always hear all of their horror stories. Stories about classes that they can't get because they are off scheduled, pitted against other core classes, or not scheduled at all. Student losing financial aide. Students missing out on industry jobs because they are hanging around Valley waiting for classes. There seems to be no logical reasoning for the the scheduling and it is so sad to hear what is going on. Do you serve the students or not? Like nothing about scheduling seems to be serving the students. A big example this semester is sound class. I know several students who have gone to other school because sound was not offer at LAVC. And when Sound was finally offer it was pitted against After Effects. LOTS of students want to take After Effects. It is a highly sought out skill in the industry. Why pit the two classes against each other, if the goal of this program is to get students working in the industry? Also because Valley has not offer the sound class in such a long time. The Sound Class is now over-crowded, and combine that with the lack of equipment. Sound is feels like such a waste of time because the instructor has to compensate for too many students and not enough equipment. It's just not fair to the teacher and to the students. I feel that I would have to lie about my sound training because I barely got to use any equipment.Your classes say lecture and lab. THERE IS HARDLY ANY LAB TIME! How can we say we have experience if we never and/or rarely get to use the industry standard equipment? It's like a doctor learning only the theory of medicine then working on live patients, praying that the theory is enough. Would you trust a doctor that has no practical training? Film making is hard enough in practice and failing in the industry is rarely tolerated. So, you are really doing your students a disservice by not giving us more practical training time and scheduling classes in such away that everyone is handcuffed to the mad scramble of we must get classes now because it may not be offered later.

My question to the department is this, if your goal is to get students working in the industry. Why are the classes that are needed not offered? Why do we not get more practical training. Why do we not have equipment access? It's just a poorly structure program and it's sad that so many people feel that are wasting their time at Valley. And if reputation is everything in the industry. My feelings are current students are going to recommend to future students that the Valley Film Program is not worth it unless something changes.


Finally, one last email between Professor Chad Sustin and a student shows that a student went as far as to purchase equipment for the class on the student’s on dime due to equipment in the Department missing.


RE: My Cable MartOrder #: 1456689193-364 [Order Received]

Sustin, Chad A
Sun 2/28/2016 2:56 PM


This is so not something you should be responsible for. It is very very kind of you and I feel awful that you think you need to do this for a class here at Valley. We WILL track down the missing XL cables. It is very kind of you and you'll have to take them back when the class concludes at the end of the semester. You should not have to be responsible for providing the school with equipment.

-Prof. Sustin

Sent: Sunday, February 28, 2016 2:03 PM
To: Sustin, Chad A.
Subject: Fwd: My Cable MartOrder #: 1456689193-364 [Order Received]

Check your Valley College mailbox later this week - there should be 7 new XLR microphone cables there.

These are for your Sound class use ONLY - DO NOT give them to the department or let them keep them in CC4.

They should be delivered by Thursday or Friday this weck.

UPS Ground Tracking number 145668913-364



IN this email the student explicitly requests the equipment donated not be stored in CC4 (Campus Center 4 which formerly housed the Media Arts equipment).

It's also not the first time Eric Swelstad has reported his secure and valuable laptop stolen.

According to the 2022 Media Arts Program Viability Review, in 2017 Eric Swelstad AGAIN reported his laptop stolen! This laptop also conveniently contained the equipment inventory for Los Angeles Valley College's Media Arts Department.

Given this history of LAVC's equipment being missing, or simply not available to students in the past, and that this is the second time Eric Swelstad's taxpayer-funded laptop has conveniently been stolen, Los Angeles Valley College’s Media Arts Employees should be the primary suspects in the burglaries.

As Department Chair Eric Swelstad pointed out in his interview – it had to be an inside job by someone who had keys and knew the equipment existed and where it was stored.
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