As Dishes Disappear, Commons Confronts New Budget Woes

It is easy to take for granted the fact that one can grab a bowl of soup and a bowl of salad and another for ice cream, yet this reality is slowly fading as 400 bowls recently disappeared from Commons over a two-week period. No dishware is exempt from the dramatic disappearance as the number of remaining spoons, mugs, and plates continues to dwindle at an astounding rate. The vanishing china is putting a dent in Common’s annual budget, taking away from the special treats served periodically in the lobby of Commons. Depleted dishware is always a problem come Spring Term for the Common’s management team. However the numbers have been especially high this year. While the number of bowls decreases, prices of food continue to rise, making it difficult to balance the budget. China plates cost about $4 a piece, and it is clear that replacing every piece of lost flatware will not be cheap. Scott Flanagan, manager of Common’s financial operations, said that the problem is rather easily solved. “We could control it if everyone would be aware that these things cost money,” he said. School President Allegra Asplundh-Smith ’04 was informed of the figures about missing Commons’ ware by West Quad North Cluster Dean Kathryn Birecki at the Deans’ and Presidents’ Meeting. Asplundh-Smith brought the issue to the student council, where Ali Schouten ’04 and Sarah Wendell ’04 jumped on the opportunity to publicize the problem. The girls creatively caught students’ attention with posters that made clear the reality and magnitude of the problem with blunt numbers and pleas to students’ morals as taught by their mothers. Schouten said, “Sarah and I chose to use blunt posters because we felt that it was the best way to reach people.” She continued, “Everyone thinks, oh, it doesn’t matter if I take one bowl this one time. But everyone is doing it.”a “When it becomes so that students dining in Commons can’t use china bowls, it becomes inconsiderate.” “However, it was the fact that many students were throwing away Commons’ bowls, leaving them in classrooms, and forcing others to clean up after them that really pushed us to publicize in this fashion, she added.” This message seems to have been somewhat effective as some of the missing dishware is making its way back to Commons. The publicity campaign also sparked discussion on a topic most would never have considered. Schouten said, “I know it got people talking about the issue, so I assume that this deterred some people from taking bowls from Commons, which was the goal.” The Council also discussed the idea proposed by Julia Littlefield ’06 of placing collection boxes in dorms or central locations on campus where students would be encouraged to return any bowls or plates they have lurking in their rooms. Despite the Council’s efforts to encourage students to bring their dishes back to Commons, Mr. Flannigan noted, “This shortage cannot be blamed entirely on the students, faculty and staff are involved as well.” He continued, “Thankfully I have been seeing faculty members returning china. I am sure the students will follow suit.” In past years, Mr. Flanagan and an associate have requested that the janitorial staff set aside all china they found in the trash. After a day, the men had collected nearly a van full of china; dishes which Commons had already been forced to replace to keep up with the supply and demand. This extensive dishware search proved what the men suspected. Many would rather throw out the bowls than simply take them with them upon their return to Commons. All dishware can be returned to Commons at any meal.