Since the end of September every commons dish sitting abandoned in the rain or hidden in the cupboard of a Birchwood has been eating into Reed College’s precious funds. Every year Bon Appetit covers $6000 worth of Commons dish theft before they begin charging Reed for the missing and damaged dishes. This year Commons dishes have disappeared at an alarming rate. The $6000 that usually lasts Bon Appetit until early November ran out this year at the beginning of October, a whole month early.
Commons attributes the missing dishes to four different causes: students taking dishes off campus, leaving them in their rooms, leaving them outside too long, and returning the dishes with food caked on. Surprisingly enough, leaving dishes on the patio in front of commons is not akin to leaving them in a dishwasher. Junior Rennie Meyers, Student Senator, and one of two Commons Liaisons reminds that, “dishes don’t just get magically cleaned. Every time someone leaves dishes outside it’s an extra 5 minutes of someone’s time.” On top of this, dishes left in the rain are often damaged to the point that they are unusable. Dishes that are not rinsed off before sitting in a dorm dish box often become irreparably damaged as well, as the food solidifies on them.
The specific reasons behind this year’s increase in missing Commons dishes are unclear. Some point fingers at the underclassmen that most regularly frequent Commons, others suggest the upperclassmen have set a bad precedent. Still others wonder if the lack of Commons dish boxes in the PAB, and other frequently-used locations, is to blame. Sophomore Maddy Appelbaum is saddened by the increase in Commons theft, saying, “I’m sure whenever people take a dish they don’t see it as a big deal, but when a thousand people each don’t see it as a big deal it obviously adds up to a lot of money. It’s just an issue of people needing to be more conscientious about the effect their small behaviors have on the community.”
Many do not realize that Reed College Commons is fairly unique in that it allows students to take dishes outside Commons for free, merely trusting that they will return them. Senior Mark Walth recounted experiences at other colleges he visited where the cafeteria would go so far as to search students to make sure they were not taking anything outside the facility, even an apple. The trust at Reed is enabled by the honor principle and in order to prevent this responsibility from joining the grave of Olde Reed students must treat their dishes honorably.
Meyers stresses, “the most powerful way for students to affect change in the community is by setting behavioral norms and setting behavioral precedent. It’s a small community, you have a lot more power than you think with the way that you act. Community goes beyond student body.”