Bon Appetit has already had to replace $18,722 worth of silverware, plates, bowls, and cups stolen this semester from Usdan and Summerfields. Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) members from the Dining Committee are working with staff to reduce these losses in a campaign that will include amnesty programs as well as publicity about how this money could be better spent.
“Tumblers (cups) and soup bowls get stolen the most, as well as coffee mugs,” said Bon Appetit Resident District Manager Michael Strumpf. “Silverware inadvertently gets in the trash, and people take it home as well, so we lose quite a bit of it.”
This semester, Bon Appetit has replaced 1440 black bowls, 1536 coffee mugs, 1584 tumblers, as well as 7164 utensils.
“People feel like they are entitled to everything,” Strumpf said. “When you go out to eat at a nice restaurant do people think they can take the china and tablecloth too? Last I checked, room and food was included, not utensils.”
Members of the Dining Committee of the WSA are beginning to tackle the problem through a variety of campaigns.
“The problem is that everyone looks around and sees other people stealing, so they assume it’s fine,” said Dining Committee member Nicole Softness ’14. “They also use the excuse that, ‘I’ve already paid for this, so I’m not stealing.’ It’s true, you’re not stealing from Usdan or Bon Appetit. You’re stealing from yourselves, and others who would want to take advantage of the really neat things Bon Appetit and Usdan could do if they didn’t have to pay over $14,000 a semester to replace cutlery.”
Some attribute the stealing to misconceptions about the “stealing fee” in students’ meal plans.
“Students believe that Bon Appetit preemptively charges them for stolen dishware and food on the assumption that students will steal throughout the year,” said Dining Committee member Melody Oliphant ’13. “So students think they’re entitled to take what they want from Bon Appetit, whether it’s a free bowl, a couple of forks, or an entire dish set with service for 12. Essentially, people think, ‘Oh, everyone steals from Usdan, so my stealing one bowl or not won’t make a difference anyway.’”
The Dining Committee plans to host amnesty programs where students can return stolen plates and silverware with no consequences.
“We’ll start off with a pilot program and put bins on each floor of Fauver and Clark,” Softness said. “Before and after breaks people can put their dirty, stolen Usdan stuff in the bins, and Physical Plant and WSA members will work together to empty them and bring them back.”
Strumpf agrees that the amnesty program is important to return stolen cutlery, but also does not want to condone stealing.
“It’s tough because on one hand you are saying don’t take things out of Usdan and on the other hand you are saying that students can bring it back during amnesty days, no problem,” Strumpf said.
Strumpf added that his managerial staff is too busy to post someone in the dining hall every meal to ensure that students don’t sneak dishes into their backpacks.
“In previous years, Aramark, Wesleyan’s dining service provider prior to Bon Appetit, employed a Public Safety officer to ensure that students were neither stealing food nor dishware from the dining halls,” Oliphant wrote. “If students were caught stealing, the offense typically resulted in a Student Judicial Board hearing.”
The committee also hopes to persuade students to stop stealing by demonstrating where money could be going instead of toward replacing stolen cutlery. Softness mentioned a list of things that Usdan could be doing with the $18,000, such as Late Night delivery (which would cost about what was lost this semester), bringing in a variety of chefs like a sushi chef, and holding more holiday dinners in Usdan.
“We’re hopeful that if students see that they could be seeing a Late Night delivery program on campus, so long as they don’t steal dishware, then more students might be encouraged to spread the message to not steal,” Oliphant said. “Essentially, students will inevitably see the quality of our dining service diminish or simply remain stagnant as the years progress, if they continue to steal at the rates we’ve seen over the last few years.”