Dining Halls Combat Silverware, Dish Theft

Dirty dishes are piling up across campus—but they’re not in the dining halls.

Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) has posted notices in all residential dining halls asking that “kidnapped” dishes, silverware and glasses be returned.

Rosemary E. McGahey, HUDS director for residential dining, said these posters are part of an annual campaign imploring students to return borrowed dishes during the beginning of second semester. By this time of year, she said dining halls are running low on crucial items like cups and trays, and the posters are meant to bring the items that are still usable back into circulation.

McGahey could not pick a house particularly affected by the kidnappings, but she said numerous houses have resorted to paper products to overcome temporary shortfalls of dishes.

She noted that Annenburg often is less affected, because first-years do not carry trays of food back to their rooms.


She said HUDS spends tens of thousands of dollars a year replacing dishes and silverware—including replacements for breakage and normal wear-and-tear—but declined to provide a specific amount.

This year is “probably pretty standard” in terms of missing dishes, McGahey said.

Two dining hall managers refused to comment yesterday, referring questions to McGahey. But several dining hall workers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they thought that this year’s disappearances “seem to be a little worse than the last few years.”

McGahey said she hopes that as students go away for spring break, they will clean out their rooms and return any borrowed dishware to their dining halls.

In some houses, HUDS and house administrators are planning a “spring pick-up day,” where students can leave dishes and silverware outside their doors for maintenance workers to collect. Otherwise, McGahey said most of the missing dishes will remain lost until the end of the year.

“We get a lot back at the end of the year, but it may be so stained or soiled that we can’t recover or reuse them again,” McGahey said.

One worker said maintenance staff often find garbage bags filled with dishes left behind in rooms.

The worker also cited the health concerns of long-lost dirty dishes—both for the students whose rooms house the dishes and for the workers who eventually have to clean the dishes.

So far, the new posters have not generated a noticeable increase in returned dishes, according to dining hall staff, but McGahey stressed that the posters are just meant to keep the issue in students’ minds.

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