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Dining hall theft still rampant

Katie Peralta | Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It’s not everyday that students walk out of South Dining Hall carrying long wooden tables and chairs back to their dorm rooms, but missing items from both campus dining halls have added up during the 2007 calendar year.

Notre Dame Dining Hall managers reported that losses of plates, utensils, bowls and cups have been similar to losses experienced in prior years, said Dave Prentkowski, director of Food Services.

Some of the most frequently pilfered items are glasses, silverware and bowls, said Mary Ann Sobieralski, head monitor at South Dining Hall. Since students have been able to bring their backpacks into the dining hall, monitors do not see many students taking items, she said.

The policy of students being able to bring their backpacks into dining areas has been in place for about five or six years, said Marc Poklinkowski, general manager of food services at South Dining Hall. Food Services has no plans to discontinue allowing bags in the dining halls.

It is impossible to monitor everyone in dining halls, since South Dining Hall alone can accommodate between 800 and 900 students at one time, Poklinkowski said.

“We just hope for the best,” he said.

He also said that between January 2007 and January 2008, costs incurred by missing dining hall items have reached over $38,000, as opposed to the $31,000 incurred in losses from last year.

Much of this rise in cost stems from increasing costs of replacing items.

“The financial impact has increased by as much as 20 percent as the cost of replacing [missing dining hall items] has increased,” Prentkowski said.

The quantity of lost spoons was the greatest, with a total of 12,960. Next were cups, with a total 12,528 missing. The most costly item to replace, the plastic trays on which students load their food at a price of $6 each, numbered a total of 216 missing.

Not all lost items have been stolen, Poklinkowski said. Many have been accidentally broken or thrown away.

Prentkowski said the costs of replacing lost items must be drawn from other Food Services funds.

“Unfortunately these costs must be covered from somewhere so they get absorbed into dining hall costs which ultimately end up keeping us from using these funds for menu items or other enhancements to the dining program,” Prentkowski said.

Many residence halls put out a collection bin at the end of each academic year to collect dining hall items students might have taken, Poklinkowski said. The impact of these returns, however, is not significantly high, he said.

While Sobieralski does not usually notice students taking items out of dining halls, she said that during her 18 years monitoring the doors at South Dining Hall, she has seen students taking items as large as chairs and even tables.

She once came into work to find a table in front of South Dining Hall with a note reading, “Thanks for the table.”

“I have not seen that kind of thing in a long time,” she said.