When students are behind bathroom stall doors, some are taking more than they’re dropping off.
Surviving on a low budget is often one of the most important lessons to be learned in college. For most students, that means taking advantage of every resource available, no matter how small.
“Students don’t have much money, and whenever they can cut a cost, they will,” said Rodney Timmons, the acting director of housekeeping at Temple.
But some, such as Michael Murray, a sophomore sports and recreation management major, are more creative than others when it comes to pinching pennies – especially when it comes to bathroom supplies.
“I steal toilet paper from most buildings around [Main] Campus, usually places I have class in, like Anderson Hall,” Murray said.
Since housekeeping closets are locked when they’re not in use, students are unable to stock up on anything that isn’t available in the restrooms. Guadalupe “Ms. Lupe” Portillo is part of the housekeeping staff who manages the Student Center bathrooms makes sure they’re stocked with supplies during the day.
“By being such an open building, it’s really hard to say, but we know the students are taking the toilet paper – come on – because you know they have to pay for everything they get,” she said. “We can tell if someone took it.”
Bathrooms are stocked each night, but depending on the number of students who help themselves to supplies, they can be restocked one or two more times throughout the day.
Portillo, who has worked at Temple for 18 years, said the morning is usually the most popular time for people to take the bathroom supplies. From noon on, theft is low because the housekeepers are constantly making rounds.
“They seem to strike between the time of 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., which is the time between when the overnight people leave and the morning people check the bathrooms,” she said.
But to some students, such as Amber Webster, a junior psychology major, stealing items like toilet paper is more like borrowing than it is theft.
“We pay for it,” Webster said. “[Students take toilet paper from the restrooms for] the same reason people take stuff from the cafeteria, because it’s hard times.”
“If you could just get it from somewhere else, why would you buy it?” she added.
Although Timmons said he understands where students are coming from, he disagreed with the ideas many students have about what their tuition pays for.
“The money that you pay pays for your education, room and board. All of your cosmetic stuff comes out of your pocket. Toilet paper isn’t that expensive,” he said.
Murray, who lives in an off-campus apartment, has realized this money-saving method is one way to keep up with expenses.
“In the beginning of the year, we bought all of our stuff in bulk,” he said. “But when that runs out, I don’t see the need in buying any more.”
Saving money isn’t the only reason students help themselves to the Main Campus bathroom products. Timmons said he thinks when students throw parties, they use the toilet paper to decorate houses or trees.
“It’s for students, right? It’s for us to use, so why not?” Murray said.
Main Campus restroom facilities use toilet paper dispensers from T.H. Wormly Manufacturing Company, which have a special design that can lock in rolls of toilet paper. The design may help deter students from stealing toilet paper, but even when theft does occur, there is no definite way of proving the culprit, Portillo said.
“How are you going to know if someone takes it? They come in here with big bags,” she said. “What are you going to say, ‘Oh, let me see if you have any toilet paper or hand towels in there’? Students carry books. That’s how they hide the stuff they take.”
Danette Coombs can be reach at email@example.com.