Peirce Cups and Privilege
Let’s talk about cups. Or bowls. Or whatever the fuck else is missing from our dining hall.
I’ve been at Kenyon for a little over two years now. And every year at around the same time, we see fewer and fewer plastic cups available for use and more and more paper cups in their place. At some point the plastic cups seemingly disappear altogether, available only to a select few who happen to be in the servery at the right time. Then, someone sends some email about how the cups are missing and how they’ll pick up the cups you took if you just leave them outside of the door. We see a slight resurgence in plastic cups only to see their numbers fall again in a few short months. Rinse and repeat.
My first year, we had a pretty decent number of cups through the entire first semester. Last year, I think it was mid-December when all the cups went missing. This year I was shocked that by November, we had lost not only most of our cups but our bowls as well.
This, of course, is a problem. According to ECO, we start each school year with 2000 cups, and by the time they sent an email announcing that they would collect stolen dishes we had only 150 cups in circulation.
Let’s do some math here – there are around 1700 students enrolled at Kenyon, with around one hundred students abroad each semester. That means there’s only 1600 students on campus at any given time, and that’s assuming everyone eats all their meals at Peirce. Even if every student who ate at Peirce walked out with a cup, we would still be left with a few hundred. But at Kenyon, we’re an exceptional bunch of students. We’ve somehow managed to collectively steal more cups than there are students.
But this is not about how, every year, Peirce needs to come up with ways to replace all of the cups and dishes that have gone missing. This is not about how, every year, ECO offers to pick up stolen dishes left outside of dorm rooms – sometimes even with free candy as an incentive. This is about how the student body largely does not see the fact that they take dishes from the dining hall as a problem.
Currently, we frame the missing dishes as an issue because AVI needs to somehow figure out how to cover the cost of both dish replacements and paper cups without any additional money added to their budget. We say that the missing dishes are a problem because the money to replace them comes out of our overall food budget, potentially lowering the food quality as a result. Yes, that is a problem, but I don’t think that’s the main problem.
As a school, we accept the fact that students are just going to take whatever dishes they have to take. We don’t question whether and why we feel entitled to these cups and dishes given the fact that literally every other accommodation (in terms of housing and res life) at this school is provided for us. So many of the responses to the stolen dishes fall in line with “why can’t AVI just buy more?” instead of “why can’t we just not take the dishes?” – and that’s the heart of the problem.
I know it seems trivial, but stolen dishes are something that I think is indicative of the way we treat a lot of property on campus. In the same way that we don’t question why people think they can steal dishes from Peirce, we don’t see the fact that students literally destroyed the Cove before it actually closed as an issue. We, as a student body, think we have the right to do whatever we want to this campus without any repercussions.
And in some ways, we can. AVI always ends up buying more cups. The Cove was bulldozed shortly after it was destroyed. This lack of consequence only legitimizes our collective entitlement, which could be why the stolen dish epidemic continues to get worse. So many of my problems with Kenyon boil down to the fact that student body (myself included) refuses to acknowledge how privileged and entitled we are. We aren’t critical of the destruction of property that happens so regularly on campus and instead view it as something that “just happens” every once in a while.
I know that taking dishes is convenient. But so is leaving them outside your door for collection. So please, for my sanity, please return your fucking Peirce dishes. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll think about why you’re okay with literally stealing from our dining hall.