New mugs vanish from dining halls

Photo by Kamaria Greenfield.

The new mugs that students found in dining halls this fall may have become a bit too popular.

Yale Dining expects to lose about 25 percent of its china each year, Assistant Director of Sustainability and Supply Management Geraldine Remer said in an email to the News, but over 75 percent of mugs have already disappeared this year in some residential colleges. Remer said the size of the new mugs makes them “more versatile,” but their rapid disappearance has led some dining hall desk attendants to monitor students more strictly.

“I find cups and mugs all over outside and in the library,” said Nadine Ricks-McCollum, a desk attendant at Davenport dining hall. “When we’re trying to feed 450 people, we run into problems.”

Students often want to take their drinks outside, into the library or into their rooms, Executive Director of Yale Dining Rafi Taherian said, but not everyone returns them. Regenia Phillips, director of residential dining, told the News Monday that she plans to work with residential college masters to encourage students to return mugs, but she has already ordered a new shipment to replace stolen ones.

In an email sent to Saybrook students on Tuesday, Saybrook dining hall operations manager Ann Marie Apicella called the shortage a “very important matter” and asked students to return mugs, “no questions asked.”

Even when desk attendants make extra efforts to catch culprits, a “constant” flow of students often slip behind their backs, Berkeley dining hall desk attendant Annette Tracey said.

But one desk attendant, who asked to remain anonymous because of her leniency, said she sympathizes with students who want to take their drinks with them.

“Sometimes I see tired students early in the morning sneaking out coffee and soup in the mugs, and I let them slide,” she said. “Parents pay so much money for their kids to come here. Why shouldn’t they get what they want?”

Dining halls provide paper cups for students to take outside and throw away, but three students interviewed said they did not know where to find them. Monica Disare ’15 said she was forced to drink her coffee from a transparent plastic cup Wednesday morning when she found no china or paper cups.

Remer said students can ask desk attendants for disposable cups, but some desk attendants interviewed did not know where they could be found or whether they should charge students for the cups. Yale Dining officially began charging 25 cents per paper cup after it distributed free, reusable stainless steel thermoses last September. Freshmen also received their own thermoses this fall, but three freshmen interviewed said many do not use the thermoses regularly.

Michael Barton ’14 said he expects mugs to continue to disappear unless dining halls make disposable cups more accessible.

“Until Yale Dining provides a viable alternative, this problem isn’t going to stop,” Barton said.

Eight students interviewed cited convenience as the main reason why so many students take mugs with them after they eat, and some said they want to avoid buying their own thermoses. Disare said one of her friends took a mug of coffee to his economics lecture “in an attempt to stay awake.” Allen Granzberg ’13 said he can see the motivations behind students’ actions, but he said he expects that most of them will eventually return the mugs.

“I don’t think people are being malicious, and I do think most people will give them back,” Granzberg said.

This year, Yale Dining also replaced individual residential college china with larger, generic plates, which are intended to reduce the use of trays and discourage theft.


  • silliwin01

    I always go for the plastic cups because they hold more. Mugs have insufficient capacity, even in the larger size.

  • Kierkagaard07

    Small school in Maine is out in front of this issue. Read here…

  • CBKM



    Make them recyclable if it’s that big a deal to you, but we clearly want them. Which is worse, throwing out a paper cup when it’s done, or stealing a mug, probably never using it again, eventually throwing that away, or just leaving it outside and assuming *someone* will take care of it (nice, btw– you folks know who you are) and forcing Yale to order more? Hm.

  • silliwin01

    Moral of the story: we pay a lot of money for our meal plan because Yale tolerates unionized dining hall workers. If we petition Connecticut to become a right-to-work state and then eliminate the dining hall unions, Yale dining could charge the same exorbitant prices it does now but provide better food and be more “understanding” of dishware “borrowing”.

    On a more serious note, make it easy to return items outside of dining hall hours, which is the cause of many lost dishes and silverware.

  • Sillitar13

    The unions may contribute in other ways to our complaints about Yale Dining, but our attitudes about the mugs are hardly among them. The problem is that people take the mugs, often to class, section, lab, or work, and don’t return them because there’s no convenient way to do so. They mistakenly assume that all custodial staff and dining staff from all buildings, colleges, and schools talk to each other, and that one way or another, if they leave their mug somewhere random on Yale’s campus, it will get returned to it’s proper place. Those are the semi-conscientious, but clueless people. Then there are people who just don’t give a **** because they see Yale as a 4 year academic hotel, where every single one of their messes is cleaned up for them (eventually), which, as anyone who can see the eternal piles of dishes and post-all-nighter waste sitting in the corners of college libraries, is a clearly false assumption.

    The very least we could do is offer something to the semi-conscientious but clueless people and make it more visibly convenient to return dishware taken from the dining hall. I know last year toward the end of 2nd semester, Saybrook set out dishware return bins in the common room, where after hours students could return dishware. If Yale Dining wants this to stop, they need to work with college masters to set up a visible after-hours dishware return, and make sure that students know about it and that they will in no way be punished for taking dishware as long as they return it.