Stealing fractures dorm community

Illustration by Kincaid DeBell

I know that a college student complaining about dorm living is nothing new. Frankly, I am often of the opinion that many of the perceived drawbacks of living in communal spaces with your peers are necessary evils. Complaints about noise, tidiness and particular smells are all very real grievances — ones which hopefully encourage the aggrieved to be more considerate of themselves. However, there is one act that I find so offensive to my sensibilities I simply cannot bear it. One complaint I will always have a sympathetic ear toward. One violation of the social contract of dorm living that cannot, at all, be excused.

Please stop stealing my stuff. Or anyone else’s.

Now, if you have not had your personal effects disappear from bathrooms or communal kitchens, you may not be able to comprehend the cocktail of rage and sadness created when items disappear. I know I sound hyperbolic, but my only kitchen knife disappeared a few weeks ago, and I found it unexpectedly upsetting. I felt like it was my fault, and it had been a gift so I felt especially guilty. I take pride in my possessions, and I was sad that it had been taken. Luckily, there is a happy ending to this story: I found the knife in the kitchen with someone else’s dirty dishes and stole it back. I am sure it was my knife because it is bright green and has a matching sheath. I promise I would not make you read this whole diatribe if I were a hypocrite.

Before my joyous reunification, I spent plenty of time complaining to my friends about my loss. I found that I was far from alone. I personally know people who have had food, kitchen utensils and even toiletries go mysteriously missing, so I feel safe in saying it is not just me who experiences this.

I do understand that we are all broke college students. I also understand that many of us have not lived in a community setting like this before. I know that ice cream in communal freezers is tempting. It may seem like there are no consequences as long as you do not get caught, but I truly believe it is an active harm to the hall community to know that your things are in danger of disappearing. Personally, it does not make me want to get to know my neighbor if I think I can not trust them to not steal the colander I got at Fred Meyer’s for $4.99. And that means the consequences of theft are not just on the thief — they are on everyone. All of this is to say, I am not trying to make anyone feel bad, or even say that I have been a perfect hallmate. After all, even I forget to clean my dishes sometimes. However, I have never stolen anything from others. Just putting that out there.

Besides asking you all to take it upon yourselves to do better, I think making clear labels as to whether or not something is for communal use is a great strategy. That way, if things go missing, there is less room to claim ignorance. Just because we should all have room to make mistakes does not mean that we should not try to avoid them. Also, and this is where I too can change my habits, not leaving dishes in communal kitchens will make them far less likely to disappear. Dorms may be small, but an extra utensil or two is not too much to ask.

We are all learning how to live with other people our own age who are also supporting themselves and trying their best. I am not asking for perfection. I really do understand that we make mistakes, but we have to do better.

We have to stop stealing stuff.

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