Students stealing from dining facilities

by Heidi Moeller / Beacon Staff • April 22, 2011

Seven reports of food theft this semester should have students thinking twice about snagging that extra snack.

Emerson College Police Department said Aramark managers consistently spotted students snatching morsels from the dining hall, Emerson Cafe, and the Max, prompting a number of students to appear before a judicial hearing.

Scott Bornstein, deputy chief of Emerson College Police Department, said food theft has been an ongoing problem, and the reason its that food service personnel want to put an end to the matter.

One freshman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she often steals food, said she often fills plastic containers with soup from the cafeteria, and also pilfered a muffin from the Max. She said she has never been caught stealing, and said she thinks there should not be regulations for taking food out of the dining hall.

“The D.H., that is a buffet first of all and I’m paying massive amounts of money to go to this school and they should feed me,” she said. “If I ever got caught, I would be upset, but I still think we should be allowed to take as much food as we want.”

Students who are caught stealing food, according to Michael Arno, the college conduct coordinator, are given the opportunity to discuss the incident with either a College Hearing Officer or the College Conduct Board.  If it is determined the incident was a violation of college policy, a disciplinary course of action is placed.

Tess Babbitt, a freshman marketing communication major, said the ever decreasing amount of money for food can be to blame for an increase in stolen goods.

“It’s the end of the year and we have no money left. Desperate times call for depserate measures,” she said.

Robbie Goodwin, a sophomore visual and media arts major, has felt the brunt of food theft consequences. On April 4, Goodwin said he went to grab a muffin in the Max, and ate a piece that had broken off the pastry he initially grabbed. An Aramark supervisor then confronted Goodwin, he said, and took down his name and I.D. number.

“I thought they took down my information to have just in case, but then I got an email saying I had to wait to meet with the conduct person over all thefts,” Goodwin said.

To his surprise, Goodwin was then told he was also being charged with allegedly stealing french fries from the Max in February, an incident that was never reported on, nor something he was ever made aware of.

“It’s very frightening, and in my opinion not handled in a way that made me feel comfortable with how their judicial process goes, especially since the crime and the treatment they are giving me is disproportionate,” he said.

Goodwin said he explained his case to Arno, at which point he was told a hearing with a jury of three advisors will be set up. Worst case scenario, Goodwin said, he will be put on academic probation.

“It’s second hand representation with no evidence, I was charged with intent to steal — that wouldn’t hold up in a court of law,” Goodwin said. “I feel like the way they deal with the crime is done in a way that makes me feel helpless. They made it seem like they were doing me a favor by giving me the report, but that’s actually a right; they have to show me the report.

A suggested solution, Goodwin said, would be for Aramark to have a more open relationship with students and make it more clear as to what constitutes a theft in the dining hall, and what the consequences for stealing any item from a dining location on campus is.

“At the end of the day, I felt afraid and helpless, and I don’t like that,” Goodwin said. “I would like to be more aware of my rights; they were never explicitly told to me. The relationship with (the school) as it stands is not as open or as friendly as it should be.”

Xakota Espinoza, Beacon staff, contributed reporting.