Hundreds Dine on Harvard’s Dime with Classroom to Table Program

The Office of Undergraduate Education’s Classroom to Table program has gained significant popularity since its inception last fall, allowing students and faculty to come together for meaningful conversation outside a traditional academic setting.

Created in September 2015, Classroom to Table allows either undergraduates or a faculty member to invite a group of four to six people for a meal at a participating restaurant in Harvard Square, where conversations can expand upon classroom dialogue, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Noel Bisson said.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, just under 1,000 Classroom to Table meetings were arranged, according to Bisson. So far more than 300 meetings have been arranged this fall, on pace to surpass last year’s figures, she said.

“In the first month we probably had a dozen, in the second month we had two dozen,” Bisson said. “We’re at a point now where we have probably 200 requests a month right now, and it may grow further.”

Despite the rapid increase in requests, the Office of Undergraduate Education has worked to accommodate as many meal requests as possible.

“We bend over backwards to do what we can, but given the volume right now it’s hard,” Bisson said.

The program has also been a cause for traffic between Harvard affiliates and participating restaurants, which include Grafton Street, Legal Seafood, Park Restaurant, and Russell House Tavern, Bisson said.

“If you walk into Grafton Street at lunchtime on any given day during the semester, there are going to be tons of Classroom to Table groups,” she said.

Students have praised Classroom to Table and the personal relationships with professors the program allows them to develop.

“I felt like I was really good friends with my teachers in high school, and that’s harder to accomplish in college when classes are so much bigger,” Grace Pan ’20 said. “I think it’s a really good opportunity to get to know teachers, especially who are very prestigious, well-known professors who teach larger classes. I feel like, as a freshmen, something I’ve been wanting to get to do more is getting to know my professors.”

Michael Liu ’19 noted the growing awareness of the program among students.

“It’s almost become sort of like a verb, ‘We’re Classroom to Tabling right now,’” he said. “It’s definitely become more pervasive.”

Classroom to Table requests continued to follow their upward trajectory during the recent strike by Harvard’s dining services workers, increasing steadily without an unnatural spike, Bisson said.

“We were quite curious and apprehensive about whether we were going to be totally overwhelmed because of the strike,” she said, “but our sense is that we’ve seen an increase in numbers that we would have seen anyway. It was consistent with the growth we saw before.”

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