If you’re reading this in class or sitting somewhere on campus, look around you. Those seemingly innocent students? At least one of them is probably a fork thief. 

Since the Brodhead Center opened in Fall 2016, more than 20,000 pieces of silverware and 15,000 cups have been “borrowed”—also known as stolen—said Aris Marton, assistant director of retail operations for Duke Dining. The Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee and Duke Dining are teaming up for a Fork Amnesty Day April 3 when students can return the borrowed goods, no questions asked. 

“In conjunction with DUSDAC, Duke Dining was looking for a fun, lighthearted approach to engage the Duke community to make them aware of the topic including the cost implications of flatware and glasses leaving the dining facilities,” Marton said. 

On this day, students are encouraged to bring any silverware and cups back to the Brodhead Center and simply place them in the dish return. 

So what happens if you try to return forks on any other day? Is there a punishment? Senior Quinn Steven, co-chair of DUSDAC, said that although there’s no punishment, she hopes Fork Amnesty Day will simply bring attention to the issue. 

“We are just hoping that through a fun awareness campaign some of these items would make it back to the dish room,” Marton said. 

Because so many pieces of silverware have been stolen, Duke Dining had to reorder supplies twice last semester and once already this semester. 

Steven noted that she thinks most of the thievery happens because students are trying to take their food to go. 

“I think it’s mostly convenience—I don't think there’s anything malicious going on or any secret plot,” Steven said.

As part of Fork Amnesty Day, Duke Dining and DUSDAC are also joining forces with a group of students in an environmental science class doing a project that encourages students to buy reusable utensils. These will be available for purchase from a table set up in the Brodhead Center. 

DUSDAC is also working to find ways to use more compostable items in the Brodhead Center, Steven explained. 

Information about Fork Amnesty Day will be sent out via emails from the Duke Student Government and DUSDAC newsletters, along with a Facebook event. 

Steven added that she is interested to see how many forks are actually returned throughout the day. 

“I haven’t heard of any hoarders yet, but I wouldn't be shocked if we had someone bring in over a hundred,” she said.