For some students, University dining halls provide more than a sated stomach. Utensil-rich residential college serveries present students with a prime opportunity to pinch the odd fork or spoon to round out their dorm supplies, an opportunity on which diners capitalize, students said. This trend, however, places a financial and logistical burden on Dining Services to compensate for the thefts.
Every year, each residential college must replace an average of 1,000 to 1,200 forks and knives, 600 to 800 teaspoons and 300 to 500 soup spoons, Dining Services Director Stu Orefice said in an e-mail. He added, though, that it is difficult to calculate the actual number of utensils stolen, since these figures also include replacements for discarded items and silverware lost during Reunions.
Students interviewed who have taken silverware from dining halls said they do not see their actions as particularly problematic.
“I don’t really consider it stealing, because it’s not like I’ll keep them,” said one sophomore, who spoke on condition of anonymity. She added that she is only one of many students she knows who have taken utensils.
“We’ve borrowed a few forks, two knives and a couple of trays, and we use them a lot,” said a freshman who was also granted anonymity.
He added, “The trays we haven’t used since it last snowed.”
Not all students share these views, though.
“Would you steal a fork from a nice restaurant? Would you steal a silverware set from Wal-Mart?” Molly Herring ’10, a student manager ins the Rocky-Mathey dining hall, said in an e-mail. “How is that any different than stealing silverware from the dining hall?”
While theft carries inherent moral implications, Herring said, the cumulative financial repercussions are also significant.
“A single fork may not be noticed, but if a hundred people each take one fork from the dining hall, that’s enough to notice,” she said. She added that the dining items have been purchased by the dining hall for “long-term use, not for students to take home as their own personal property.”
The freshman interviewed said he doesn’t consider taking dining items for personal use to be a problem as long as there is a sufficient supply for use in the dining halls. In fact, he added, the thefts may be beneficial in some ways.
“It’s probably better that the students eat in their rooms than [eat] in the dining halls and [make] a mess there outside of dining hours,” he explained, referring to students who do not clean up when snacking in the dining halls after the staff has left for the night.
Whitman has had significant problems with people stealing cutlery, dining services student manager Eric Schlossberg ’10 said.
“Last year Whitman dining hall was so crowded that people would just take the plates out with them and take them away,” he explained. There is little staff can do to prevent the theft, Schlossberg added. “The only thing that is done is if the card checker notices someone leaving the place [with flatware] they call them back and make them return it.”
Rocky-Mathey dining hall student manager Ryan Bayer ’09 noted, though, that utensil shortages impair the ability of staff members to perform their jobs.
“It makes our job a little harder because we have to make sure we wash things quicker and get them back out [for diners’ use],” Bayer explained.
Stealing is also inconvenient for dining hall staff, Bayer added.
“At one point, we were short on forks, and the next week, we had plenty of forks but were low on knives,” he said.
Students who admitted to stealing silverware said they did not plan to keep the stolen goods.
“We’ll definitely give [the utensils] back,” the freshman said. “I have enough forks at home.”