Sticky Fingers: Columbia Puts On The Freshman Fifteen

March 8, 2013, 9:14 pm

nutellaHave you gotten over the Nutella thefts at Columbia University yet?

The first news was that $5000 of this Italian spread (made of chocolate, sugar, hazelnuts and palm oil) was being taken from the dining halls every week. Meant to be put on toast, it is also commonly ingested by simply sticking a spoon (or a finger) in the jar. The HuffPo originally pegged Columbia’s losses at 100 pounds a day, which kind of makes me gag every time I think about it.

My Lose It! iPhone app pegs a cup of Nutella at a whopping 1,600 calories: eat the entire jar, and it’s 2,000 calories. This makes me think that Columbia students must be readily identifiable on the Upper West Side as the young folks with coats straining at the buttons and chocolate smeared all over their faces.

But now the Columbia administration is saying that the thefts are only about a tenth of what was originally reported on a student blog: $450 a week is the amount they will cop to. On Amazon, it costs $25.00 for a five-pack, which would be about 90 jars a week disappearing into the dorms.

Honestly? Even if Columbia is understating its losses, that doesn’t seem like so much to me. If you put dog kibble out in bowls students would steal it just on principle, so something nice doesn’t stand a chance. Rule of thumb: you should certainly never put anything out in a college dining hall, or in any other public space in a residential university, that you don’t expect to lose.  The classier the college, the more elaborate the thefts. At Zenith, students used to steal the clocks right off the classroom walls before someone had the wit to nail them down. Cases of toilet paper, paper towels, and soap grew legs and trotted off into wood frame campus housing.

I bet that if you got a close look at any university budget, there would be a sizable line for replacing stuff boosted by students. Taking tuition back in trade is a timeless, if inexplicable, practice. I had a classmate at Yale who, senior year, stole a complete service for twelve, including silverware, one piece at a time, sometimes sticking dinner plates down his pants. This might seem peculiar (and it actually is peculiar, in addition to being felonious), except that each residential college had its own china design, and ours was the entire courtyard of the college painted around the rim of each plate, bowl, cup and saucer. You really couldn’t get it at Crate and Barrel.

As for food, one of the reasons I applied to Harvard was the enormous bowls of chocolate pudding set out for lunch and dinner. At Oligarch, the college I actually attended, we had boxes of graham crackers and vats of peanut butter set out at every meal. These items exited the dining halls, sometimes in large stacks of graham cracker and peanut butter sandwiches, without people going to much trouble to hide it.

We at Tenured Radical hear that the Columbia Nutella bandits filled up to-go cups for later consumption. I approve. These would be far less messy to drop into a backpack.


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