The television screens in Corcoran Commons currently display a bold-printed message with red accents—“Urgent: we are missing 2,000 plates. Please return them ASAP.”
Only about 3,000 students live on lower campus, but thousands of plates and forks have gone missing in less than two months.
“We average replacing around 22,000 metal forks a year, every year,” noted Beth Emery, Director of BC Dining. “This year has been exceptionally high though, with losses approaching a year’s worth in a month, especially with plates.”
Lower Dining Hall is most prone to theft, according to Emery, because of its proximity to dormitories with kitchens and sinks. Students carry plates and utensils back to their rooms to eat, then often either forget to return them or decidedly continue to use them. Dining hall property disappears into the abyss of mods and eight-mans.
Emery does not, however, have a problem with students using dining hall dishware to eat in their rooms. “We don’t mind if you carry [dishes or utensils] to your room at dinner, we just ask that you bring it back to the dish return when you come back for breakfast.”
Some students have complained that a new initiative of the dining halls, where disposable meal containers were removed from individual eating stations and placed behind registers, compelled them to take plates when they would have otherwise used disposable containers.
Emery explained this initiative originated due to sustainability concerns. Last year, “many individuals used a to-go container even when staying in the dining hall because they say they thought it was cleaner and safer than china. That is a misnomer and in fact, a china plate that goes through our rigorous cleaning cycle is much safer.” Emery also countered that disposable containers are still readily available for students who ask.
Nonetheless, Lower Dining Hall has resorted to increased usage of disposable containers in response to the plate shortage. Students need to do their part by returning dining hall property and reducing their reliance on disposable containers.
Finally, she noted the hypocrisy of many students’ efforts to be environmentally conscious. “Many students carry a reusable water bottle of some sort, yet we see students throwing silverware in the trash instead of the dish return…[They don’t] realize they are throwing money away. There are a lot of small—but impactful—individual changes that students can make in their day-to-day lives to decrease their ecological footprint, and one of them is choosing to use reusables.”