Signs appeared at the food court in Loyola’s Damen Student Center at the start of the spring semester, notifying students of cameras in an apparent attempt to discourage shoplifters. However, neither Loyola’s Campus Safety, other departments, or Aramark — the company that runs the food court — acknowledge being the ones to post the signs.
Regardless, interviews by The Phoenix reveal theft has been a problem at the student center, which sells snack food, candy and some fresh produce to students. The food court, which sells items to students, is separate from the dining hall, in which students who have meal plans can eat unlimited food.
The Phoenix tracked down two student shoplifters who admit they’ve regularly taken items without paying and without much remorse. The students asked not to be named.
One first-year at Loyola said she steals candy, chips and chicken tenders from the food court in Damen Student Center when she doesn’t feel like waiting in line to pay. She said she steals because it’s hard to find food she wants to eat in the dining halls on campus.
“Loyola’s too expensive and the dining halls suck,” the 19-year-old said. “If [Loyola] wants us to stop stealing, they could make the dining halls better. Then, I wouldn’t feel like I had to because I’d be fed from my meal plan which I pay thousands of dollars for.”
Robert Ryder, an Aramark representative, said Aramark hasn’t received any feedback concerning stealing food due to complaints about the dining hall, but the company encourages students to share their opinions.
Ryder said Aramark doesn’t have any data on how often students steal from on-campus food stores. He said like any store, Aramark experiences theft from time to time and it uses the same strategies to minimize theft as any other retailer, but it’s unclear what those are.
About 64 percent of college students have shoplifted — on- or off-campus — according to a 2017 study published by the International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences. Only about a third of students who admitted to shoplifting reported being caught, the study showed. On average, students who had been caught were more likely to have reported more prior experiences shoplifting, according to the study.
Some students said the signs are ineffective and don’t actually prevent stealing. Almasa Duheric, a senior studying biology, said she hasn’t even noticed the signs. She said they might be more helpful if they were larger.
“I haven’t even seen them so if they’re more prominent or in your face that might deter people,” Duheric, 22, said. “People who have stolen before might be like, ‘Oh crap, they know.’”
The first-year student who steals said when she saw the signs, she looked around to see if there were cameras. When she didn’t see any, she said she decided the cameras probably don’t exist because there were similar fake signs where she used to work. It’s unclear if there are actually cameras in the food court.
“I worked at a really dinky movie theater in high school and we had those same signs and they were fake,” she said. “We didn’t have real cameras. They just taped these up with scotch tape, like ‘Good effort,’ but it didn’t really do much.”
Another first-year student who said he steals said he wasn’t deterred by the signs, but stopped stealing frequently when he noticed a worker standing in the food court watching students at the start of the spring semester. He said he also noticed employees confronting students after they’d stolen.
“I’ve seen that in person and so I just decided it probably wasn’t worth going through the effort and the risk,” the 19-year-old said.
The female first-year student said she isn’t sure what the university could do to deter stealing from the food court and she’s not sure if the Damen employees — who are employed by Aramark — even care much about stopping theft.
“I feel like even the Damen employees don’t care, they have to know what’s happening,” she said. “I don’t know what the university could do to make people stop stealing, I don’t really want to give them suggestions.”
She said she thinks stealing from the university is different from stealing off-campus because she already gives so much money to Loyola for tuition. Loyola’s tuition is more than $20,000 a semester and meal plans cost more than $2,000, according to Loyola’s website.
“It’s different because Loyola takes so much of my money already,” she said. “I pay so much for a meal plan and most of the time the dining halls don’t have good options. The majority of the time when I go into the dining halls I leave disappointed and hungry. It feels warranted to a degree.”
The other first-year student who’s stolen also said it’s different to steal from the student center than from other stores. He said since he pays so much money in tuition it shouldn’t matter if he takes a few snacks.
“It just feels like I’m getting my tuition money back,” he said. “So, I don’t feel bad just taking some candy bars or some Gatorade or something.”
Amanda Maurer, a first-year studying English and journalism, said she’s never stolen items on campus, but she said she thinks it’s more justifiable than shoplifting from another store.
“I’m not sure where I stand, I don’t think stealing is ever okay, but it feels like in a way we’re already paying for it,” Maurer, 18, said. “It’s different from stealing from a general store, you don’t own any of that stuff. Not that it’s okay to steal on campus, but it’s better in a way.”
Duheric said it’s never okay to steal, regardless of where you are. She said stealing is like taking advantage of the employees who work in a store.
“Morally, stealing is just not something that’s okay,” Duheric said. “I know that the opportunity might present itself when workers aren’t looking, but just use your best judgment.”
Despite others’ opinions and the university’s efforts to curb theft, the first-year female student said she will probably continue stealing from the food court.
“You just walk out and you go sit and you eat, no one comes and chases you,” the student said. “It’s like, ‘See ya, you really think I’m gonna pay seven dollars for this?’”
Thomas Murray, chief and director of Campus Safety, didn’t respond to requests for comment.