Faculty Nibble Few Dining Hall Meals
Despite a new program to bring professors into the undergraduate dining halls, most Harvard teaching staff are still missing out on the opportunity to enjoy General Wong's chicken.
Early last month, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 announced that Faculty would be able to swipe their cards for free meals when they accompany students in the undergraduate dining halls.
The program has been in place for nearly a month now, but so far few students and their teachers have taken advantage of it.
According to Ted A. Mayer, director of Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS), card readers in the houses have been programmed to accept Faculty cards since Feb. 12. Between then and Feb. 26, only 11 Faculty with new privileges had swiped their cards.
By comparison, 22 students used an older system of obtaining meal vouchers from University Hall, the process for students to invite a faculty-member to a meal that the swipe privileges are intended to replace on a trial basis.
Michael D. Shumsky '00, a student representative to the Committee on House Life, which conceived the new program, says that while the results are lower than anticipated, they represent an improvement.
"That's obviously a small number of the total Faculty--it's not the response that we hoped for--but it is a significant increase over last year," Shumsky says.
He explains that he views the problem to be an information gap--students and their teachers don't know about the new plan. To solve the problem, he says the Undergraduate Council plans to get the message out.
"Students can go and do this today," Shumsky says. "The [council] is beginning to mount a significant publicity campaign for this. We'll have posters that are put up around campus at the end of this week."
Mayer says that HUDS will also be willing to assist in publicity.
"We'll be happy to work with the students," Mayer says. "The student of course has to invite the Faculty member."
According to Lewis, card swipes have now been enabled for all voting members of the Faculty. That means that senior lecturers, senior preceptors and all professors--including assistant and associate professors--will all be able to swipe.
But lecturers, preceptors, instructors and teaching fellows do not have privileges in the new program. Lewis says he hopes this will encourage the highest-ranking members of the teaching staff to engage in informal mealtime interaction with their students.
Lewis says that for a student to host a teaching fellow or other non-voting member of the teaching staff, meal vouchers will continue to be available from University Hall.
The new program also makes meal vouchers available from House offices and the checker's desk in Annenberg Hall.
To support the effort, Lewis and Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles sent a joint letter to members of the Faculty informing them of the new program and encouraging them to take advantage of it.
"We hope that this initiative will encourage members of the Faculty to
continue classroom discussions by suggesting that the conversation resume over a meal in one of the Houses or in Annenberg Hall," they wrote in the letter. "Likewise, we hope that students will take advantage of the opportunity to engage Faculty members by inviting them to take a meal in one of the dining halls."
Shumsky says that the council will also encourage Faculty to take a proactive role in joining students in the dining halls.
He cites Dillon Professor of International Affairs Jorge I. Dominguez and Professor of Music Thomas S. Kelly, who both teach large core classes, as examples of teachers who actively encourage their students to join them for meals.
"They would get up in front of class and say 'I'm having lunch today in Eliot House or Leverett House, and I'd encourage you to come and join me and hang out,'" Shumsky says.
And as part of the deal, neither student nor teacher will be charged for the meals. Mayer says HUDS will send the bill directly to the office of the dean of the college.