Dartmouth Dining installs cameras to prevent stealing

The change comes after other dining restrictions, such collecting student IDs at ’53 Commons for students taking a Green2Go meal.

by Aditi Gupta | 11/7/23 5:10am

by Nigel Jeon / The Dartmouth

Dartmouth Dining has installed cameras in unspecified dining locations within the past few weeks in response to concerns that students are stealing food, according to an email statement from Dartmouth Dining director Jon Plodzik. The change comes after Dartmouth Dining reintroduced pre-COVID policies at The Class of 1953 Commons at the beginning of fall term, including holding student IDs at the entryway if they are getting food to-go through the Green2Go program. 

This fall, a camera was installed above the snack trolleys in Novack Cafe, which students cited as a popular place to steal. The camera is meant to eliminate the ease of stealing, according to Plodzik. 

“There are concerns from time to time that students may not be paying for items they take,” Plodzik wrote. “Vandalism has also occurred. We install cameras for the safety of our staff and property. They can be found in most of our locations.”

A student from the Class of 2025, who requested to remain anonymously to speak candidly about their experiences, admitted to stealing from Dartmouth Dining — calling themself “one of the real kleptomaniacs on campus.”

“I think I steal from [Novack] about every day,” they said. “I went upstairs [and] grabbed, like, seven different things. My jacket has really good pockets, so I just stuffed it all in there and walked out.”

The anonymous source said the camera “definitely has not” caused them or the other students to alter their stealing practices in any way, saying that they “actually still [are] not really sure where [the cameras] are.” 

Novack employee Mahi Tessema ’27 added that she doesn’t know much about the new surveillance system.

“They just kind of put the camera in,” Tessema said. “The warnings about ‘there’s a camera here’ just came from coworkers, not [our] supervisors.”

The new policy of holding IDs at the entrance to ’53 Commons exists so Dartmouth Dining can limit students to 15 minutes to collect their to-go food. Plodzik said he wants to limit “potential abuse” of the Green2Go program.

“Some students were eating prior to taking a meal to go,” Plodzik wrote. “We hold the ID to ensure that the guidelines around the Green2Go takeout program are being followed.”

Students said they are confused about why this policy is necessary.  

“I did think it was weird when they took my ID the first time,” Louise McKown ’26 said. “I was like, ‘oh, this is new and different. I don’t love this.’”

Noah Martinez ’27, who said he gets a Green2Go box “three to four times a week,” expressed dissatisfaction with the practice.

“I think it’s kind of messed up because then I have to rush,” Martinez said. “When there’s long lines for stuff, it’s just really annoying and inconvenient because then I can’t get the food that I want.”

Elizabeth Price ’25 said she is concerned about the restrictions on how much food can be taken to-go, despite the fact that she is “on [the] Unlimited plan.”

“We are paying a lot of money to be able to eat whatever we want,” Price said. “I feel like we should be able to take more food to-go. Like, at least, can I take a cup of cereal to go or something like that? Like a snack for later?”

Students shared that the steep prices of food is often what motivates stealing.

“Everything [at Novack] is really expensive,” the anonymous ’25 said. “I can’t really pay for it all because they don’t give you that much in the dining plan, so I just kind of take what I need.”

Although McKown said she has never stolen from Dartmouth Dining, she said that its prices are too high in general.

“All food here is expensive,” McKown said. “I think [the stealing] just speaks to a bigger issue.”

Martinez added that the use of cameras is “really frustrating” and suggested an alternative solution. 

“I think that instead of having to put in a camera to make people stop stealing, [Dartmouth Dining should] maybe just offer lower prices or offer more DBA for students,” Martinez said.

According to Martinez, the student body and Dartmouth Dining would benefit from developing a sense of “trust.”

Students are encouraged to make their voices heard, Plodzik wrote. 

“We work very hard to have a wonderful relationship with all the students we serve,” he wrote. “They are the reason we are here.”