Students continue to share thoughts on the thefts taking place at Tu Mercado

Tu Mercado thefts are discussed by students and administration. Walker Chuppe/The USD Vista

Nicole Kuhn | Asst. News Editor | The USD Vista

When 12 o’clock hits at the University of San Diego, a mob of hungry students floods Dining Services. Everywhere from Tu Mercado to La Paloma to Aromas, Toreros experience  long wait times of  10-15 minutes. Not only are long lines something that students complain about, but also the high prices of food products like grab-n-go sandwiches and  fruit cups. The long wait times and prices have led to theft across campus, particularly in Tu Mercado and La Paloma.

With the issue at hand Donald Godwin, Vice President of Student Affairs, discussed ethical conduct on campus. Godwin expressed that based on the reports received that theft has in fact not increased. But when a student is caught stealing on campus and reported to Public Safety, the student must go through a hearing.

“When students are alleged to have violated the Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities, they are required to engage our student conduct process,” Godwin said. “The student conduct process is administered by the Office for Ethical Development and Restorative Practices. Depending on the nature of the alleged violation, students may meet with an Assistant Dean of Students for an administrative hearing. This is a one-on-one meeting between the student and the Assistant Dean of Students.  If the alleged violation is egregious, students may be required to have a Critical Issues Board hearing. CIBs are comprised of a faculty member, and administrator, and a student. CIBs have the potential for suspending or expelling students.”

Senior Dominique Rougeau believes that price contributes a lot to the issue of theft. The price adds up especially when students are on campus all day, balancing classes and eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With the budget of a college student Rougeau added that budgeting can be challenging, especially when a majority of students’ days are spent on campus.

“For instance, with the new Aromas, everyone was excited when it opened, but that was definitely one of the first things that I noticed is the hike in prices a little bit,” Rougeau said. “Especially the food items more so than the drinks I’d say. I do think it’s tough.”

On a recent retreat with other San Diego universities, Rougeau compared USD’s food prices with those she had heard from students at San Diego State University.

“I haven’t talked about this topic much,” Rougeau said. “But just recently I went on a retreat through USD and there was a lot of SDSU people there. I got into a couple conversations with students about how even their prices are high and a lot of those students at [SDSU]  as well struggle with purchasing food as often as they’d like to.”

In an effort to bring prices down, Dining Services provides lunch specials at different locations across campus such as  at La Paloma, where students can purchase a lunch sandwich and a drink for five dollars to combat with this particular issue.

Some students have been led to believe that a part of tuition covers Dining Services — this misconception might encourage some to steal. But in an article published by The USD Vista in the last issue, Loryn Johnson, Director of Marketing at University of San Diego’s Auxiliary Services, debunked this myth. Auxiliary Services solely funds and supports themselves to provide food on campus for students. Acknowledging the high prices, Johnson said she and other administrators continue to work to create healthy options on campus such as  kombucha and hummus cups.

But theft isn’t just happening at Tu Merc and La Paloma. As a residential assistant (RA) Rougeau also noticed theft in the residential areas and has heard a few stories about theft happening on her own floor at the Vistas.

“Recently, too, as an RA I’ve heard theft come up in laundry rooms from missing laundry baskets to laptops,” Rougeau said. “Which is disappointing. And I’ll be honest, I’ve been really surprised this semester alone of more stories coming out about theft. Especially my first two years, I wasn’t very aware of theft or at least I wasn’t hearing that many stories about it. I don’t know if it’s just being talked about more now or if it is just more a thing that’s happening now compared to a few years ago.”

Senior Julie Lai agreed that some of the prices are expensive and that the issue of theft is something you hear quite often. But it doesn’t just happen at lunch time.

“We hear a lot about theft on campus — people break into cars and things like that,” Lai said. “But I think because people think that USD is generally an affluent campus people will generally leave their stuff around all the time like laptops in libraries. So the thing is, people are stealing from different places, which I don’t have a full understanding of why that happens.”

With the high prices and long lines in mind, Dining Services continues to find new ways to combat these issues.