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Datamatch Got Us Two Free Meals, Harvard Should Get Us One

By Amy Y. Li
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

Perhaps there really is no such thing as a free lunch. After running out of funding for the rest of the year, Classroom to Table — a popular program that subsidizes meals for College undergraduates and their professors in Harvard Square — is now “on hiatus” for the remainder of the spring semester. The program, which started in 2015, has been suspended mid-semester each term between spring 2018 and spring 2019, and its future direction is now under review.

Since its inception, we have been extremely supportive of Classroom to Table for providing a non-academic setting in which students and faculty can get to know each other on a more intimate level. Though exchanges during class and office hours are no doubt productive and meaningful, they are often restricted to dissecting readings or planning upcoming assignments. In contrast, dinner conversations are more comfortable and friendly, enabling students to form personal relationships with professors who they may otherwise only see in the half-light of the academic’s reading lamp.

The persistent shortage of funds demonstrates that students and in turn the faculty they invite recognize the value and joy of these meals. As such, in putting the program on hold — and stronger still under review — the College sends a sort of mixed message about the relationships and forms of engagement they want to promote and their ultimate willingness to make them financially possible. Our conclusion, if simplistic, is that Harvard should, for lack of a better phrase, pony up.

Still more, a sustainable solution to this constant funding problem would seem to also involve creating other forums to fill what is obviously a void in personal engagement between faculty and students. One idea would be to increase the number of faculty dinners in Annenberg and the Houses, which would seem to be more cost-efficient as well as inclusive.

But we’d also like to make an appeal to faculty members themselves. Of course, we understand that as leaders in their fields — not to mention family members, friends, and private persons — Harvard faculty balance busy schedules. And we want to acknowledge the incredible dedication so many faculty members show to their students. But it’s worth remembering that, as teachers, faculty have a critical responsibility — and we’d hope, given the caliber, not to mention charm, of students here, desire — to get to know their students as people. It’s the sort of practice that seems to be done best at small liberal arts colleges, but that need not prevent the same from happening here.

The fight for programs like Classroom to Table should not be taken up by students alone. A faculty-student meal should be a pleasure and privilege on both sides of the table.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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