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Large bags allowed in dining hall

Katie Kohler | Thursday, November 1, 2007

Saint Mary’s students are now able to bring large bags, like backpacks and computer bags, into the Noble Family dining hall – but the belongings will be subject to searches if there is “reasonable suspicion” that items have been stolen.

Director of Dining Services Barry Bowels said this new policy is strictly under a trial run and contingent on student cooperation.

The policy change was made as a result of student requests to bring larger bags into the dining hall .

“In order to accommodate the requests of the students, we decided to implement it,” Vice President for Student Affairs Karen Johnson said. “There has been a lot of discussion about wanting to use books, laptops, etc. while dining, so we agreed to give it a try.”

Bowles, the Board of Governance, Student Affairs and the administration have reached an accord concerning the parameters of the new “bring-in bag policy.”

In an e-mail to students on Oct. 25, Johnson explained the new bag check policy.

“Any and all members of the Food Services staff will be allowed to make random package inspections at meal periods if there is a reasonable suspicion of items being removed from the dining hall (other then those items currently permitted for removal).”

Johnson described “reasonable suspicion” as “seeing someone taking items, or an overloaded backpack or bag.

If a random bag check reveals stolen items, a three-strike method will be enforced. A first offense is a $50 fine and the second is a $100 fine and 10 hours of community service. The third strike results in the termination of a meal plan without refund for the remainder of the semester.

If a faculty or staff member is found removing items from the dining hall, his or her name will be forwarded to their supervisor, Johnson said.

Some students were skeptical of the penalties. However, Bowles justified the fines by looking at the long-term effects of theft.

“Yes, a stolen cup becomes a very expensive cup and stolen bagels become equally expensive,” he said. “There must be serious ramifications if we are going to allow this policy at all.”

Junior Andrea Zettler supports the changes, but thinks the penalties are too severe.

“What do they think we’re going to do, steal economy sized bags of cereal?” she said.

Bowles said stealing food is not the only problem.

“Cups, plates, silverware, salt and pepper shakers disappear, like, everyday,” he said.

Dining hall workers like Dianna Holland have noticed students taking more than the one item they are allotted to take from the dining hall at each meal.

“Students have a tendency to take advantage,” she said.

Bowles said the new policy will be permanent only if inventories remain consistent.

“I cannot allow the policy to continue if more things are being stolen,” he said.

Kristen Edelen contributed to this report.