Yet again, in their Feb. 12 meeting, the Student Body Senate was surprised when a deceptively neutral theme turned into heated discussion, this time revolving around the topic of theft. In what is continually perceived to be a “victimless crime,” Bon Appetit is suffering more and more at the hands of food theft. Eager to discuss this topic, the senators hastened to respond and debate on what’s driving this phenomenon.
Cindy Anderson, the current Dean of Students, opened this discussion by having the senators guess what the number ‘$31,296’ represented. The response came with a nonchalant tone and a variety of answers ranging from the obvious response on every college student’s mind, “half of tuition,” to the witty quip, “the price of a Honda Civic” made by Student Body President Pax Lloyd-Burchett. It was revealed that the price represents the money lost from stolen drinks in one semester alone.
When staff asked why there might be an increase in food theft, one senator noted that “most isn’t out of need, it’s out of culture.” Reedies’ perception of Bon Appetit has changed to a “us versus them” mentality. In the past, students have had issues with Bon Appetit staff involving feelings of exclusion and profiling which has contributed to a systemic distrust of Commons at large. “Because of this,” one senator mentioned, “the community is divided, and it’s caused students to develop the perception that ‘stealing is cool and hip.’”
Although this insight seemed generally agreed upon by all senators, Anderson displayed a sense of distress at this notion. She turned again to the senators to discern their opinions on what would be the best possible approach to discussing this with the student body, in a way that would be communicated with sincerity and understanding. The Senate was in agreement that staff should focus the discussion on trust as opposed to the financials. With little specificity, they noted that “loss prevention control needs to be built into the culture [at Reed], not the institution.”
However, there was no concrete answer derived from this conversation. The Senate seemed to agree that Reedies need to reframe their relationship with Bon Appetit as one of collaboration not strike. The mindset needs to change from “silent institutional rebellion” to “community-bred change”, and it would appear that the first step will come when staff can communicate that trust can be developed and when students are willing to listen.