The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

LANGFORD: The Vanderbilt Kleptodores– why students are stealing and what the university can do to combat it

The psychology behind the rampant theft occurring on and off campus and how Vandy can mitigate it by putting its students’ pockets first.
Emery Little
Kissam Munchie Mart

Aside from my daily hunt to secure a Rand booth, my favorite lunchtime entertainment is watching the cavalcade of people sneakily leaving the food area, items in tow. A cookie here, a cup of coffee there, and if you’re lucky you might even see someone exiting with an entire tray of food. Outcomes vary wildly from slipping away unnoticed to being chased down through a crowd of people by one of Rand’s employees. My question is, why is this so normal for Vanderbilt’s campus, and why is it such a particular problem?

It’s no secret that Vandy students have sticky fingers. That’s putting it lightly. We’ve all witnessed someone let their friends into EBI through the back door, or seen someone slip out of a Munchie without swiping. We’ve also seen people walk out of cafés and stores around campus like Food for Thought, snacks in hand. 

“I’ve stolen an entire meal from Rand,” one student said. “If they’re not going to feed me during finals week, honey, I’m going to take what I need.”

One student offered that the reason why they stole from Food For Thought was because they had just purchased their textbooks and they wanted to save their dwindling Commodore Cash.

Talking with students contradicted my assumptions about the problem. I initially thought that student theft was just another instance of the entitled Vandy student thinking they can do whatever they want or take whatever they want without consequence. However, when interviewing across campus, I began to realize that the large number of people who had stolen on or off campus were embittered with specific issues that had led them to do so. In other words, it’s not in their nature to steal. They were driven to do it.

From my understanding, the amount of stealing on campus is symptomatic of the feeling that students are getting constantly “ripped off” for a multitude of reasons. Whether it be an overpriced stack of new edition textbooks that the professor will never even require you to open; large, compulsory meal plans; or costly, yet wildly varying housing, it seems as though nothing is working in our favor financially. 

In no way do I want to trivialize or defend this problem on campus. Stealing is bad. However, the prevalence of this issue casts light on certain feelings that students on campus are experiencing that must be understood and ameliorated. Thus, I would like to propose certain changes that Vanderbilt can make in order to mitigate theft on campus.

First, the most pressing matter is campus meal plans. While one might say that requiring students to pay for a large number of meals per week would limit theft, it’s actually the opposite. If you have several unused meals left at the end of the week that you were required to pay for, you could understand why one might want to exact justice and take a bag of chips. It’s counterintuitive, but when people feel like meal plans are blatantly profiteering off of them, stealing may feel like a way to right the wrong. So, allowing students to select how many meals they would normally eat in a week will prevent against unused meals and subsequent theft.

Second, the lines at dining locations during peak meal hours have gotten out of hand. With inefficient lines stretching out of the door in Rand, EBI and Grins, many students complained that the only way to get lunch between classes was to take something and go. Long lines seem to be a symptom of having few dining options. If more stations could be opened in Rand or other locations, students could disperse and lines would subside. 

Another solution to this issue is an update of the Honor Code to include theft. Many other universities use the phrase “lying, cheating, and stealing” as the basis for their student expectations. Notably ours only focuses on academic violations. Policies regarding student conduct such as stealing need to be amended to the Honor Code, as signing a written agreement against theft could minimize this phenomenon.

As for other expenses associated with college like pricey textbooks or housing, there’s not much that can be done. Unfortunately, there are many skyrocketing fees associated with attending a private university like this. Hopefully, professors think carefully about the texts they assign to their students, as this can be a major financial burden. All one has to do is to stand in Barnes & Noble on syllabus week to see the pandemonium that ensues as students in the checkout line call their parents to see how they’re going to pay for their books.

I’m not condoning stealing in any way, and I would caution students against it. However, there are serious problems on campus like unfair meal plans and inefficient dining options that were most frequently cited as reasons as to why students felt compelled to steal. Unless sentiments of getting milked dry for money can subside, this will remain a problem on our campus.

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About the Contributors
Will Langford, Former Editorial Director
Will Langford (‘22) is majoring in Economics with minors in Philosophy and Business. He loves talking about his home state of Texas and all things politics or ethics. Besides writing, he enjoys running, telling sarcastic jokes and watching reality TV.
Emery Little, Former Social Media Director
Emery Little (‘22) is from Birmingham, AL. She majored in communication of science and technology and Spanish. In her free time, she loves to design graphics, follow tech news and run her photography business. She can be reached at [email protected].
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Bernie Sanders Voter
3 years ago

There is nothing wrong with stealing from others.

Suzan Harkness
3 years ago

I was shocked when I first learned about the level of theft that goes on at Vandy – it was not initially from this Opinion piece. Full disclosure – I also work in higher ed but we do not have this problem on our campus, therefore, I took interest in learning more about the Kleptodores. Theft is wrong, period. However, to try to understand why theft happens to this degree is a step forward to finding helpful solutions.

While students are privileged to have the opportunity to study at Vanderbilt, they know that (they follow the stats), they are a bunch of really smart and hardworking young adults, so much so that they are rebellious. Frankly, they do not seem to appreciate feeling ripped off at every turn. They see inefficiency and know they have very little time between classes to grab a bite and that their opinion may not be considered. Therefore, if the lines are long and backed up, they may finish their tray of food before they get to the registers (same thing happens at Disney World). Vandy students are hungry and on a tight time schedule. Alternatively, as indicated in the Opinion piece, students may add a couple extra snacks (to their pockets), or simply grab and go. It is not right but it is their reality.

Students may also feel that sur charges on accounts are simply another way for the institution to extract more money for nothing, so they may want to find a way to recoup money that they feel is taken from them. The forced meal plans are excessive especially if the student cannot get food when they need it, or have sufficient choices if they have a restricted diet. Perhaps students are equally as frustrated to pay $1.00 for a banana at the convenient Munchie Mart when it should only cost ten cents, or $2.50 for a yogurt that should cost $1.50. Yes, there is a convenience factor, but the profit scale is a bit steep. Maybe evoking a dollar menu at the Munchie Mart will help offset the excessive pricing for convenience while giving students choices and options to make better decisions.

In the end, finding productive solutions to the underlying issues should help students make better choices, save the institution from losses, and spark less student resentment. It could be a win-win for all. Involve the students in the solutions, ask, listen and take their lead – we count on these young adults to be our future leaders… give them a chance – ask them to find the solutions and adopt some of them. College is about learning and growing – this sounds like a ripe opportunity.

3 years ago

Author lost credibility at, “stealing is bad.” Hence, the CORE of the VU theft issue (not to mention moral attitudes in general, but I digress); TRUTH is, stealing is WRONG. Period.
MY recommendation 🙂 to pretty much stop the theft is, VU just start prosecuting criminal behavior. Problem solved…and quick.
Listen…you are at a huge, private institution with a GPA requirement many cannot even reach. Quit whining. Individually…or as a group…use your intellect to find OPTIONS (are there not almost ALWAYS options?)…OPTIONs to the problem, then the “option” of STEALING. #resourcefulness
Likewise, if you are not cracking books which Professors have on the Syllabus….students quit buying them until you really see if they are needed!! I am sure they will still be in the bookstore$$$.