Nearly 40,000 items - ranging from dinner plates and utensils to coffee cups and bowls - have been stolen from both North and South dining halls this year alone, said Dave Prentkowski, Director of Notre Dame Food Services.
At a cost of about $25,000, approximately 11,000 spoons, 8,000 knives, 4,000 forks, 6,000 coffee cups, 5,000 plastic cups, 1,500 dessert plates, 1,500 brown bowls, 3,000 blue bowls and 2,500 dinner plates will need to be replaced due to theft this year.
The trend has remained steady over recent years, Prentkowski said, even after the dining halls began to offer Styrofoam cups and plastic spoons for take-out items during September of 2005. He said that the addition of those options has helped - but not solved - the problem.
There was a significant increase in theft several years ago when both dining halls allowed book bags and back packs to be brought inside the cafeterias in response to problems of theft occurring in the lobby while students ate, Prentkowski said.
Students who choose to steal and are caught "loading up their backpack with cups or sandwiches" often face disciplinary action from the Office of Residence Life and Housing, he said.
"I think it's [sometimes] a matter of convenience ... other times I think it's intentional," Prentkowski said.
Part of the problem, he said, is that students may not know there are plastic spoons available and will instead walk out with a stainless steel spoon while eating a cup of yogurt.
Other times, a student steals to "stock up their dorm room," Prentkowski said.
For junior Emma Pineda, though dining hall theft isn't "right," she said she can understand why some students do it.
"It's convenient to steal - for grab 'n go, or for cereal in your room ... you need a spoon," she said.
And with no one watching some of the time, sophomore Erica Sanchez said that, even though it "isn't acceptable to steal," sometimes it can just be a joke.
In some cases, a student's ID number will be specially flagged in the card services system, Prentkowski said. When that student's card is swiped at the dining hall entrance, a notice appears stating that the student has previously committed a theft of dining hall property. As a result, they are not allowed to carry their book bag inside, he said.
"Ultimately, [the cost] ends up being passed on to the students, through room and board costs," Prentkowski stated.
Food Service's annual budget is in the process of being submitted for next school year, he said, and will include estimates to cover the cost of replacing stolen items.