Stolen dishes, cutlery taken from dining halls cost 'U' $40,000 each year to replace

By Jennifer Lee, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 20, 2011

Students sneaking royal blue cups, multicolored bowls and the occasional fork or spoon out of campus dining halls do not necessarily consider themselves thieves. In fact, most students guilty of dishware theft feel they're taking what they've paid for.

The commonly held belief among students that stolen dining hall dishware is reimbursed to the University through tuition fees is a myth, according to University Housing spokesman Peter Logan.

Tuition, which is primarily based on credit hours and state residency, has no connection to room and board charges, Logan said. Furthermore, additional fees students pay, including miscellaneous charges like the $1.50 allocated to each student’s school or college government, do not include a charge for missing dishes.

Logan said missing plates, cups, bowls, mugs and silverware are instead factored into the operating budget for University dining facilities.

“It’s more of a nuisance, really, than anything else because it essentially takes plates and cups away from the students who are trying to use the dining facilities,” Logan said.

Though University Housing doesn’t keep track of how many pieces of dining ware go missing — whether they are stolen, damaged or accidentally disposed of — the University spent about $40,000 last fiscal year to replace and add necessary pieces. However, since University Housing operations are funded by student room and board rates, Logan wrote in an e-mail that students are indirectly paying for the lost dining pieces.

“The replacement cost of dining wares is not a major expense, but if you divvy up $40,000 among the 11,000 students with meal plans, it puts it in a personal perspective,” Logan wrote. “Taking a cup or a plate or a bowl is part of that ... it costs everyone.”

Business junior Hiral Pithadia said his current off-campus house contains a fair amount of dishware and other supplies that he and his housemates have acquired from the dining halls. Pithadia said he always believed that the University charged an additional fee to student tuition or room and board rates to make up for missing dishware.

“For as long as I lived in the (residence) halls, I felt that it was appropriate to, kind of, borrow some things from there,” Pithadia said, adding that he does not consider himself a thief for taking cutlery and dishware.

An LSA freshman who wished to remain anonymous said he has taken dining ware back to his room in East Quad Residence Hall as needed, but always with the intent of returning it at the end of the year in the collection boxes provided by Housing staff.

“I’m not doing it with the intent of never giving it back,” he said. “If I need a spoon or a fork or a bowl to eat cereal, I’ll take one … I’ll bring it back at some later date.”

The LSA freshman also described pilfering dining ware as “getting even” due to the high cost of tuition and room and board.

“As tuition gets higher and higher, what’s a few forks worth?” he said.

Pithadia expressed this same feeling of retribution and said he justifies stealing dishes because of the amount students are charged per meal, since he can find cheaper options outside the dining halls.

The meal plans that include 125 and 150 meals per semester are factored into students’ room and board, while meal plans with more meals are available at an additional cost ranging from $135 to $530. For students not living in the residence halls, meal plans cost between $1,110 for 50 meals and 500 blue bucks per semester to $2,390 for the unlimited plus plan.

“Although there might not be a pure title to an expense for theft or losing objects from the dining hall, I feel like they might just compensate for it by over-pricing meals,” Pithadia said.