Tragedy of the common room

We at the Record are shocked to learn that Dining Services has lost in each dining hall 75 to 100 percent of the silverware, cups, plates and bowls purchased at the beginning of the semester, totaling over $7000 in losses. We are lucky that Dining Services allows us the convenience of taking dishes out of the dining halls, but students must begin to assist Dining Services in fulfilling the flipside of that policy, which is to bring dishes back to where they belong.

To some extent, this is a classic tragedy of the commons. If everyone takes a bowl and a spoon from the dining hall for their personal use, then Dining Services experiences a substantial loss. However, it is also common for students to let dishes pile up in their dorm rooms or common rooms. In both of these cases, most students likely do not realize that their handful of dishware is part of a much larger problem. While it is often inconvenient to return a dish or two, Dining Services has made dirty dish return bins available in most dorms and both libraries.

This problem will only be solved if we as a community become aware of the problem and begin holding each other accountable to returning our dishes. There are a few solutions that may help hasten this solution. College Council is launching a laudable campaign to publicize Dining Services’ losses, as previous efforts by Dining Services were clearly ineffective. In addition to a publicity campaign, we recommend expanding the distribution of dish return bins and posting signs on each floor and stairwell that indicate the location of the dish return bin in each residential hall, which would hopefully remind people to return their dishes more frequently.

We appreciate that Dining Services has provided to-go boxes for Whitman’s, and perhaps expanding this program to Mission and Driscoll would reduce the number of dishes taken away from those locations. Junior Advisors could play a key role in emphasizing the problem to their entries and encouraging them to keep a clean common room by regularly returning dishes. Finally, we suggest that if Facilities comes across an unreasonable amount of old dishes in a dorm room during a routine inspection, that those students be subject to a fine.

The loss of dishes is a huge, unnecessary drain on Dining Services’ resources. If we become more conscientious about returning our dishes, perhaps Dining Services will be able to spend the money needed to replace missing implements on improving the quality of the dining experience.