Crackdown on brunch sharing causes student controversy

Dylan Basset | Contributing Reporter

Rahee Nerukar | Student Life

Washington University has disciplined about a dozen students so far this semester for eating food during brunch without paying for it. Rather than simply making them pay for the food, many have been sent to the Judicial Administrator.

Students taking brunch without paying for it might be bargaining for more than a free omelet and pizza.

While sharing wristbands with friends might not be an unprecedented way for underclassmen to save meal points, students caught taking food without paying the $9.25 premium are no longer simply dragged to the cash register to pay—they are being served judicial summons.

One international student described an incident earlier this month in which she was caught sharing an omelet with her wristband-bearing friend earlier this month. She was approached by a chef who she claims asserted that she was stealing because she had not paid for the food she was eating, took her ID and wrote her name on a list.

“He had a whole stack of cards of students sharing bracelets,” she said. “They should have given a verbal warning first and clarified their standard for stealing before starting to punish as harsh [as they did].”

Later that week, the student said she met with Judicial Administrator Tamara King, where King established that she had stolen and that the student would be informed of her punishment by email. She said she hadn’t yet been notified of the next step as of last week.

The crackdown ignited an online controversy when a student described seeing students written up by the head chef and sent down to the Washington University Police Department station in a post on the Overheard at Wash. U. Facebook page.

Dining Services Manager Paul Schimmele said around a dozen students have been disciplined for stealing food from brunch this semester.

He explained that the relatively high cost of brunch exists under the assumption that students will not eat every single meal of their semester on the meal plan, adding that compensation for profit lost due to stolen and shared food contributes to the high price of brunch.

“It’s troublesome. To think that one person is kind of taking advantage [of another student]…it’s kind of disturbing,” Schimmele said.

Students caught taking food from brunch without paying would be punished for theft or attempted theft, according to King.

Dean of Students Justin Carroll said the consequences of a student’s actions depend on a combination of factors, such as a student’s history with the University and the exact circumstances of their actions. Carroll noted that King adjudicates a vast majority of referrals while serious crimes on campus are heard by the University’s Judicial Board. The judicial board alone has the power to suspend or expel a student.

Green signs posted on the cash registers in Bear’s Den are one of the school’s efforts to curb stolen food, but some students have expressed doubt that these efforts are successful.

“I think a lot of people swap bracelets or steal soda,” freshman Natalie Johnson said. “I’ve seen a lot of people swipe stuff from BD.”

Schimmele said the all-you-can-eat brunch system has been a system exploited in years past by several students, and it has been policed in a number of different ways, such as maintaining an employee whose job it was to watch for sharing. He credits the recent influx of referrals to the new chef staff at Bears’ Den.

“It’s hard to measure how big of a problem we have,” Schimmele said. “[On a typical weekend] there are zero referrals made to Tamara King.”

Some students expressed concern about the all-you-can eat nature of brunch.

“Weekend brunch at the Village must be a la carte in order to remain [price] competitive because students there have other options, unlike the students living on the South 40,” freshman Shuyang Liu said.

Despite the recent crackdown in Bear’s Den, students still notice others stealing food.

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