Students returning to their rooms from break were greeted by dirty laundry, unmade beds, wilting plants, and a bevy of menus from local vendors like “Happy Wok”. Delivery-men often drop these menus while delivering food to Swatties. The college technically bans this practice due to the security concerns posed to the Swarthmore community by strangers being present unsupervised.
The issue was initially brought to light when Mary Lyons Residential Advisor Mark Kharas ’08 informed Dean of Student Life Myrt Westphal after he saw a vendor slip Happy Wok menus underneath a student’s door. Kharas said he reported it because “during RA training we were told to report the menu-ing of dorms because such distribution was trespassing and the College didn’t like it.” According to Housing Coordinator Liz Derickson ’01, “The rule of thumb is that only guests of residents are allowed in the buildings.” Visitors are not permitted in the building unless they are explicitly invited or accompanied by residents.
The presence of strangers in the building presents a security concern, especially since most students don’t lock their room doors and given the recent series of thefts the campus faced last semester. Director of Public Safety Owen Redgrave says that while delivery-men have been suspects in past investigations, “there haven’t been any that were responsible that I can think of.” Still, he says that “we are always concerned about strangers in the hall, and college policy is that students clearly must be invited to be into the guest.”
In addition to security concerns, delivery-men invade the privacy of students. Ailya Vajid ’09 felt uncomfortable with vendors in her hall while she lived in Parrish last year. “A guy kept walking up and down the halls…it was a little creepy because you know, girls walk around in their towels, and it was kind of strange him being there.”
Kharas also finds it invasive.”I also don’t like it personally,” he said. “It’s very annoying to get multiple copies of the same menu under my door, and it feels very intrusive to have a complete stranger and non-Swattie by the door to my room leaving stuff.” Woolman resident Myles Dakan ’10 says that he “once saw a vendor slip a menu underneath an EVS closet!” Additionally, some vendors have torn down menus of other restaurants, according to Westphal.
Although the distribution of menus is technically soiliciting and therefore banned by the college, Redgrave admits there is some gray area. “Typically places like the Happy Wok, they are invited by some student,” he said. “They’re here kind of legitimately, and while they are here they drop of advertisements.” To make it even more difficult, vendors refuse the blame when confronted with the issue, claiming that it wasn’t their employee who distributed the menu. “In order to more strongly enforce the rules, we’ have to catch them red-handed,” said Redgrave. Most companies will comply with the ban when Public Safety confronts the delivery-men, only to ignore it again a few months later.
Since efforts by Public Safety have been futile, Redgrave encourages students to take action. “If someone notices someone leaving material, call us right away with a description…so we can intercept [them],” he said.