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The new plastic mugs have gone missing in large numbers. Jo Kroeker | Col­legian

 

For stu­dents des­perate for a cup of coffee before dashing off to class, an empty mug rack beneath the coffee carafes in the cafe­teria is a sorry sight — but all too common in recent weeks. Dining hall patrons have taken or thrown out around 450 plastic white mugs since the start of the semester.

Bon Appétit Man­agement Company bought 600 plastic mugs at the beginning of the year to replace an old set of ceramic mugs, said Bon Appétit General Manager David Apthorpe in an email, but by the end of Sep­tember, no more than 80 were cir­cu­lating. Only about 70 mugs had been taken from use by Bon Appétit because they were stained or broken, he said, which means the rest have been taken or thrown out by patrons. Bon Appétit Mar­keting Manager William Persson said they’ve found mugs around campus and in garbage cans within the dining hall.

Mugs cost $4.60 each, Apthorpe said. That’s more than a $2,000 loss for Bon Appétit in the first month of school.

“I am sur­prised at the speed which the mugs have van­ished,” Apthorpe said. “It affects our ability to maintain our service stan­dards.”

Patrons aren’t just taking mugs, though. Sil­verware and dishes are often found around campus and in dorms, too, he said.

“Stu­dents’ atti­tudes can be, ‘There’s thou­sands of forks, and I already pay so much,’” Apthorpe said, adding that people have a dif­ferent attitude toward taking books from a library.

The net effect of taking the mugs dimin­ishes service for everyone, Apthorpe said, noting that replacing the dis­posable cups has allowed Bon Appétit to offer better food and cus­tomer service.

“If we can save money on cups, glasses, waste, we can have a more robust program,” he said, esti­mating that Bon Appétit spent $8,000 on dis­posable cups in pre­vious years.

Stu­dents may be taking out the cups in reaction to Bon Appétit’s decision to replace dis­posable to-go cups with reusable travel mugs for each student, according to Persson. Stu­dents have com­mented that they want the dis­posable cups back, he said, but that doesn’t excuse them for taking out the plastic mugs.

“It is tech­ni­cally stealing,” he said.

Junior Erik Halvorson said stu­dents shouldn’t take the white mugs, but the lack of dis­posable to-go cups encourages them to do so.

“It seems like [the travel mugs] are not the best use of resources, because people forget them, they lose them,” Halvorson said. “It inevitably leads to people taking the white ones.”

Stu­dents are allowed to take a piece of fruit, a cookie, a cone or cup of ice cream, or a bev­erage in a travel mug from the dining hall, Apthorpe said.

Whether they’re incon­ve­nienced by the lack of dis­posable cups, stu­dents who inten­tionally throw away or take mugs out of the dining hall break the college’s honor code, said Asso­ciate Dean of Men Jeffrey Rogers.

“Of course it’s a vio­lation of the honor code,” Rogers said. “It says some­thing about us.”

Rogers said some stu­dents might just be for­getful, but the fact that so many mugs have dis­ap­peared so quickly is “a problem.”

“Is it serious?” he added. “It’s the little things that turn into the serious things.”

Apthorpe said he is waiting on a shipment of 250 more mugs to replace some of the missing ones.

“We hope that edu­ca­tional efforts and the chal­lenges created by a mug shortage will shape guest behavior,” he said, noting that if the mug theft con­tinues, Bon Appétit will have to institute stricter door mon­i­toring.

For now, Rogers has a strict warning for stu­dents who steal: “I pity the fool that I catch outside of the dining hall with a cup he threw away.”