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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Trick turning and beyond: Students shop for their groceries at Tufts' dining halls

While few claim to leave Dewick-MacPhie or Carmichael Dining Halls with empty stomachs, their bulging pockets might indicate otherwise.

And while many students claim to have stolen from the dining hall at some point, not all members of the Tufts community are in agreement about the legality of the act.

Some of the more tame cases of dining-hall shenanigans may involve a stolen piece of fruit or an extra cookie here and there; more adventurous students will wrap a sandwich in some napkins for a late-night snack. Others claim to have stolen multiple trays with thoughts of President's Lawn sledding in mind. Additional creative tactics involve empty backpacks, Tupperware containers and plenty of Ziploc bags.

"I take tons of food out of the dining hall in plastic Ziploc bags. At any given meal I'll take chicken, fruit — you name it — and I'll take it home with me in the bag that I'm carrying," said one senior, who requested that his name be withheld.

One of the subtle ways that students take more food than allowed, without seeming to be doing something "illegal," is by "trick turning" — that is, by getting food from both the Dewick and Hodgdon Good To-Go dining facilities in the same meal period, even though this is against official policy. This tradition is embraced by a large portion of the student body, as evidenced by the considerable number of faithful trick turners who have joined the Facebook.com group dedicated to the cause.

Students also get creative with their justifications for stealing food from the dining halls.

"Since I'm paying so much money to go to this school, I feel like any amount of food that I take out of the dining halls should not be penalized," said freshman Axel Tonconogy. "In fact, I feel I have a right to take that food."

A portion of students are wholeheartedly opposed to the practice of stealing food from university dining facilities.

"Whether or not students want to admit it, it is wrong to steal food from the dining halls," said freshman Alan Yee. "It is not our right, because if everyone stole, there would not be enough food left, and it's not fair for the students who play by the rules."

Regardless of opinions about stealing food, the question begging to be asked is: Are these inevitable thefts accounted for in the prices charged and policies espoused by Dining Services?

"We do not charge an extra percentage of money in any given year because more dishes or more food than usual appears to be missing," said Patti Klos, director of Dining Services. "This could be the case simply because more students are eating more often. We balance our budgets so that we don't have to raise the price [of the meal plans], even if our own costs have gone up.

"Keep in mind, we have no way of knowing which students steal food," she continued. "We don't keep track of exactly how much food is missing or who posted on Facebook that they stole food."

While stolen food is not necessarily accounted for by Dining Services, students do not receive a free pass to pilfer food after meals are finished. Dining Services occasionally receives anecdotal reports about students taking large amounts of food out of the dining halls or stealing an entire set of silverware, and they do address these cases. Dining hall managers are encouraged to be observant and to approach students if they see unreasonable thefts taking place.

"It's been many years since we felt a student really needed to be disciplined for stealing from the dining hall," Klos said. "Several years ago we caught a girl dragging a chair out of one of the dining halls as part of a bet that she had lost, and we referred her to Tufts' judicial process."

Most students feel that if they were to steal, punishment would not be warranted.

"While I do feel that stealing is wrong, we are paying so much money to go to this university that I think it's a little ridiculous for a student to be harshly punished for taking something from the dining hall," freshman Timothy Lim said.

According to Klos, college-age kids do not see a clear distinction between what is rightfully theirs as university students and what is the property of the university.

"With this age group, many people don't understand what belongs to them versus what belongs to the university," she said.

In some cases, the dining staff is able to reach an accord with the student who is trying to steal, so as to best satisfy the needs of both the perpetrator and the university.

"A few years ago, a student brought a large box to Dewick in which he was collecting place settings of china for a special dinner he was going to host that night," Klos said. "We ended up loaning the china to him, but we weren't going to let him keep it."