‘Happy Wok’ Menus Leave Swatties Unhappy

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

wok.jpgDaisy Yuhas caught this photograph of an elusive menu-dropper.

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.

Disclosure: Myles Dakan and Mark Kharas are reporters for the Daily Gazette.


  1. Do you think that delivery guys from happy wok really know the dorm floorplans? it seems unfair and mean to make fun of them for slipping a menu under the janitor’s closet.

    maybe students from nonurban areas aren’t used to people shoving lots of delivery menus under the door (especially multiple copies of the same menu), but let me assure you, it’s a very common practice.

  2. it’s still kind of creepy to have a delivery guy walking around as girls are coming out from the shower in their towels.

    this could be solved if they just left a pile of menus in each dorm

  3. I have intercepted an incident, however, in which a deliveryperson from a not-so-local pizza delivery chain was explicitly sent by his employer to plant menus and student deals. I had a discussion with him about it, and deflected him away from the dorm by agreeing to take the menus inside myself. I explained the policy to him, and he claimed a lack of awareness. I believe it. I agree with Sofia above that it’s really a common occurrence, but the dorm environment is something that is expected in many ways to be private. I, and I assume many students, would like to walk to the restroom in the evening with the expectation that only relatively familiar people will be roaming the halls. Although in this instance, the concern of having deliverypeople in the dorms seems like more than a little dose of paranoia, security breaches on this campus in the past three-and-a-half years have been more serious than thefts that could be prevented by the locking of doors. I have two provocations:

    1) Student consciousness of inviting strangers _into_ the dorms should not be confused with inviting strangers _to_ the dorms. One can deflect a deliveryperson directed to “the Dana basement lounge door”, for example, instead of to a specific room. Stopping door propping and having the gall to ask whether or not one is a student (which as an RA I admit the occasional self-conscious difficulty) are also more proactive steps than simply alerting Public Safety (something that I recommend regardless of Vivaan’s above sarcastic remark).

    2) Although this is a rather worn point of discussion by this point, let’s invest the million-or-so dollars into a unified electronic access system. Partially in response to security situations last semester, the College implemented the new ID system starting with the Class of 2011 which includes the now-familiar blue background for students’ names. What is not as widely known, however, is that this new version of card also contains a built-in electronic device that allow students into electronically-locked areas of the College to which they are given explicit access (for example, the Language Resource Center in Kohlberg, and at least one room designated for Computer Science work). These could easily be programmed to work with a similar system across the board for residential buildings at the College. If it works for my (free) PhillyCarShare key fob and the ID cards of more than 400 students already, why am I still carrying around that lumpy MicroProx tag that has allowed me so securely into my work-study room–and only that room–for the past three years? If the College spends that money to secure computer rooms worth tens–or hundreds–of thousands of dollars, and a non-profit does it to secure a fleet of $20k+ vehicles and millions of dollars of insurance liability, why not for students worth much more?

  4. Cheng-Hin does the same thing too. I find it mildy to strongly irritating depending on my mood that day.
    I agree with the poster who suggested that we could have designated spaces in the dorm where these delivery men can ask their swattie patrons to kindly leave those fliers. That would be much better than allowing them to continue entering dorms and leaving menus that are often unwanted.

  5. Although safety is of course an important concern here the issue is not nearly so narrow. It is simply annoying for businesses to drop advertising material in private spaces on a regular occasion. It’s the same with junk mail; it’s annoying and I want it to stop, except that this junk mail is slipped under my door in an already locked building. It’s posted on all Swarthmore doors (although some of the tags have worn off) that unauthorized entry is trespassing, and even if the posts aren’t visible I don’t think it’s a legitimate excuse for someone to say they didn’t know that it wasn’t okay to go into a locked dorm without permission. Is it okay to go into a private home without permission and put advertisements under bedroom doors? Although that’s an extreme example it’s not one that’s completely out of line. Whether or not students lock their doors I still think it’s intrusive to have strangers walking around private dorm spaces and have no qualms with calling public safety when I see them. I wish that the steps I had to take weren’t so drastic but given that it appears difficult to get the restaurants to acknowledge their illegal practices unless they are actually caught in the act that seems to be what needs to be done.

  6. Why did the title of this article have to directly attack Happy Wok? It is made very clear in the very first paragraph of the article that the story here is a common one that is related to all of the restaurants that deliver to Swarthmore College. I can understand how this story came about because of one student’s encounter with a Happy Wok delivery person, but that doesn’t justify the title of the article, which could cause people to develop a stigma towards Happy Wok – the title will affect people who aren’t aware that this article is pointing out more restaurants than just Happy Wok being at fault. Therefore, I ask that the author be more conscious of how a simple title can affect the lives of others, and either change the title immediately or take this article off the web because it’s unfair for Happy Wok to be the sole restaurant attacked in the title.

  7. The fact that other dining places in the area also drop off menus does not in anyway change the fact that Happy Wok is guilty of this practice—I had 4-5 of their menus under my door when I returned from break. The accuracy of the title and the content of the article, is not in dispute.

    It is not the Gazette’s policy to significantly alter articles after publication except in the case of editing, factual errors, or removing names and/or identifying information in certain situations.

  8. Well, just for your information – I don’t plan on turning towards the Daily Gazette for any future news because I don’t agree with that policy. I mean, I made a simple request, and I asked it of the author, not of the Gazette in general.

  9. That is unfortunate.

    To clarify, however: Removing an article or changing a headline is not a decision that would be made by an author–it has everything to do with an institution’s policies.

    If there was a factual error, I would change it in a heartbeat. But there isn’t.

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