Hundreds of cups and plates disappear from the dining hall each semester, and food-service provider AVI spends around $18,000 each year replacing them. This, according to student, faculty and staff groups, must change.
On Dec. 3, a news bulletin sent on behalf of Student Council, the Faculty Executive Committee, Campus Senate, Senior Staff and Staff Council announced that, beginning next semester, students will no longer be permitted to remove dishes from Peirce Dining Hall. Dish collection bins will be removed from public places, and students found to have Peirce dishes in their residences may be reported to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
“There is a significant cost associated with the practice of removing dishes from Peirce,” the news bulletin said. Beyond the financial strain it puts on AVI, the piles of dirty dishes that collect around campus pose health and sanitation problems. Dish collection bins in the libraries and residence halls have attracted rodents and insects, and pose a danger for students with airborne food allergies.
However, the school’s primary concern has been the price of dish replacement. “The average cost of the dishes are between $7 and $8 apiece,” Chris Wisbey, resident director of AVI, said. “Each red cup is $1.10. Silverware ranges from 30 cents to 55 cents. You take out a plate, a fork, and a cup — that’s like $9 walking out.” Wisbey is worried that money spent on replacing dishes will be unavailable for other uses, such as quality-of-life improvements to the servery as a whole. “I’ve got all these cool ideas I want to do for the spring semester,” Wisbey said. “One is looking at doing Nitro coffee on a tap … maybe bringing music into the dining hall. But I can’t do that if I can only spend money on dishes.”
While a ban on the removal of Peirce dishes could solve many problems, it also raises logistical issues. Even when other students take their food to go, finding seats in the dining hall can be difficult. In an effort to enlarge the eating space, the school is making Peirce Lounge into a dining area and imposing restrictions on groups seeking to reserve rooms in ADR during dining hours.
In order to accommodate students with busy schedules, AVI is also considering a number of “grab-and-go” options for future meals. The servery plans to offer small take-out containers, as well as plastic utensils, that students can use when they don’t have time to sit down for a meal. In addition, AVI hopes to experiment with a grab-and-go lunch bar in Peirce Pub. As currently envisioned, the lunch bar will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and will offer a small selection of sandwiches on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“This is not for the students to come in, grab a couple sandwiches, and go eat upstairs,” Wisbey said. “This is for students who are in a hurry, who have told us: ‘I don’t have time to eat. That’s why I take a dish.’”
While the costs associated with dish replacement have risen steadily over the past ten years, in recent months the number of missing cups has begun to decline. Wisbey believes that a cultural shift is already taking place at Kenyon, and that students are becoming more aware of the costs of their actions. He believes that now is the perfect time to enact a policy change.
“I think these last 10 years we’ve had blinders on,” Wisbey said. “And now, with the help of ECO and some other student groups on campus, we’ve kind of made some noise: ‘Listen, this is not okay. We’ve got to make this change.’”