It’s dinner time at the Zorn Dining Commons. There’s a 20-minute wait in the stir fry line. The fried chicken disappears within minutes of being put out. Suddenly, a crash is heard throughout and the building becomes silent. Applause starts to arise as the student who dropped a plate is utterly humiliated by the unwritten protocol. Now, what happens to these plates when they are broken or stolen?
According to Josef Quirinale, the general manager of food service on campus, the dining commons (DC) spends roughly $30,000 to $40,000 a year just on replacing the plates alone. Each plate costs between $10 and $13, while the mugs cost $8 and silverware $8 to $10.
“That’s obscene. I think it’s stupid that people feel the need to take cups and plates from the DC,” senior Robin Harris said.
“That’s part of running a business. You have to prepare for that,” junior Ariel Robey said.
Quirinale noted that while the tableware may seem expensive, they were purchased in an effort to make the students feel more comfortable. He described it as a safe-haven feeling for the students.
With the DC hoping to make students feel more at home, students may feel as if they have the right to take stuff, freshman Alex Littlefield said.
Quirinale said he once found three discarded cups in a gutter on Ralston Street across from the Pub Restaurant.
According to Quirinale, the DC’s budget comes from the students’ meal plan money. Quirinale stated the budget is not only used to replace the stolen and broken item. The money is mainly used for the upkeep of the building, electricity, food purchasing and employee salaries. There are about 170 employees at the DC, Quirinale said, but that replacement cost is still however a good portion. “Your meal plan not only pays for the building, it pays for the electricity, salaries and more,” he said. He also added that paying so much money for replacing the dishes cuts into spending on other things for the DC. He noted that there will be less special events because the budget will have to be altered to account for the low amount of tableware. He added that sometimes the money just isn’t there.
“I’m just managing the money,” he said. “There’s a lot of ground to cover.”
Some students, however, don’t think the DC should pay for the expenses of theft.
“It’s ridiculous,” sophomore Kathryn Sleeman said. “They [the DC] shouldn’t really have to do that. If we were stupid enough to break that many, we should lose out on plates.”
“I think they should consider the eventuality that students are going to take plates and cups and everything and they should prepare for that,” Robey said. Other students think otherwise. “If they didn’t pay for the plates, what would happen to our tuition or living expenses?” Littlefield said. According to Quirinale, the DC has to pay for the items. He said that if students are living at home and break two plates a week, who would pay for it?
“You have to replace them,” he said. He added that if you have $100 a week for food and you break those two plates, you are now down to $80 for food. He noted that could be having less food that you really like.
Quirinale said he wants students to think about what they’re doing when they steal the plates.
Michael Woodworth can be contacted at email@example.com