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A large portion of the student body has violated a Brown Dining Services policy this semester, according to the Herald's fall poll.

At the time of the poll, about 60 percent of survey respondents said they had engaged in some violation of the rules, while 38 percent said they had not and 2 percent said they did not know or did not answer.

The most common activity, carried out by 47 percent of poll-takers, was taking food to go from the Sharpe Refectory or Verney-Woolley Dining Hall after already eating there.

Other violations included in the poll were removing silverware or other non-food items from a Dining Services eatery (23 percent of those polled), taking something from a retail eatery such as the Gate or Josiah's without paying for it (16 percent) and eating at the Ratty or V-Dub without swiping in (14 percent).

The percentage of self-reported violators decreased from first-year students to seniors, correlating to the increase in the number of students living off campus by class year. Though about 70 percent of freshmen and sophomores combined chose at least one of the options, only about half of juniors and seniors combined reported the same.

Ann Hoffman, Dining Services director of administration, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that this results in higher prices and meal plan rates because "unfortunately those costs must be passed on to our paying customers." Hoffman wrote that Dining Services cannot calculate the exact cost because not all violations are detected.

"I have personally met with students who have been caught stealing and some have said they take things because ‘everyone does it' and others have said that they've purchased a meal plan and didn't use all their meals, so they felt like they'd already paid for these items," Hoffman wrote.

 

Prevention strategies

BuDS student cashiers are expected to confront people who appear to be attempting to take an item out of a retail eatery, said David Hefer '12, a cashier at the Ivy Room and the Friedman Cafe. The only exception is that the cashiers are told not to risk their personal safety if a person appears likely to become violent if confronted, he said.

The Department of Public Safety stations police officers at Jo's on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, said Deputy Chief of Police Paul Shanley. In addition to working on the busy nights at Jo's, DPS officers have also served at the Gate in the past.

"Generally, it gets very busy around 1 in the morning," he said. "There's quite a crowd of people in there."

He said the officers make sure the crowd is orderly and they act as a deterrent for students considering taking food without paying for it. Officers sometimes see students gather items, then realize the officer's presence and place the items back, Shanley said.

"The officer does work with the (eatery) manager to identify people who look like they are not going to pay," he said.

Usually, the manager will approach students who appear to have left without paying properly, Shanley said.

Shanley said situations are usually worked out "fairly easily" and resolved on the spot. Situations rarely involve violence or other extreme reactions, he said.

"Only every now and then would there be a situation that (the officer) would characterize as difficult," he said.

 

A ‘crime of opportunity'

These policy violations have an impact on Dining Services and on students, according to Hoffman.

"Our managers have to spend a lot of time watching for these issues and it takes their focus away from more constructive activities," Hoffman wrote. "There are also significant financial implications that affect our prices and our program offerings, and decisions about new menu items and/or services always must take into account these kinds of behaviors."

Students offered a variety of reasons for why these actions might occur.

"I think people don't want to pay for things," Hefer said. He also said that because students think they can get away with stealing, it is a "crime of opportunity."

Michael Sweet '11, a BuDS cashier, said a large problem is that students run into problems because they do not know how their meal plans work. For example, he said, some students are bad at keeping track of their Flex Points, so they find themselves eventually unable to pay for items.

Though nearly half of the poll-takers acknowledged that they had eaten at the Ratty or V-Dub then taken food to-go, Hoffman stated that the rule is clear.

"The policy is that students on meal plan may either eat in or take out a meal; they can't do both," Hoffman wrote. "These rules haven't changed recently but are continually under review."

Some students said they thought that taking food to-go after eating at the Ratty or V-Dub was not as big of a deal as engaging in more blatant violations of the dining rules.

I think a lot of people want to have food in their rooms, so they take extra stuff with them when they leave," said James Stefano '11.

"I think people do perceive a difference between … eating without a meal credit versus eating and then taking food to go," said Katharine Mead '12. "You see someone who's eating six plates of food and you eat two and then might take a take-out container, and that's a little easier to justify than walking out past a cashier that you know you're deceiving."

Taking food from a retail eatery without paying for it is a moral issue and students should be more sincere, said Nics Theerakarn '12. But taking food to-go from the Ratty or V-Dub after eating in is more justifiable, if in limited quantities, he said.

The Herald poll was conducted Nov. 1–2 and has a 3.0 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. For the subset of freshmen and sophomores combined, the margin of error is 4.3 percent. For the subset of juniors and seniors combined, the margin of error is 4.2 percent. A total of 915 students completed the poll, which The Herald distributed as a written questionnaire in the University Mail Room in J. Walter Wilson and the Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center during the day and the Sciences Library at night.

 



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