Salads and Sociology, personal anecdotes during the main dish, and then some Dante over dessert are now possible conversation starters during lunch with the people who hold the key to your academic success. Since early November, a University initiative has offered students the opportunity to take their professors to lunch.
Dean Mike Whaley, Vice President for Student Affairs, announced the new program on Nov. 4, in an all campus e-mail. Whaley’s office now offers free lunch vouchers for the Daniel Family Commons to all students and faculty. A student can ask a professor to lunch, a professor can ask a student, and in each instance, neither has to pay.
“We’ve been talking about ways to encourage and facilitate informal faculty/student interaction, outside the classroom, outside the studio, outside the lab,” Whaley said. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from students. They think it’s a great idea. There have not been that many students so far [to use the vouchers]—maybe a couple dozen.”
Henry Abelove, the Wilbur Fisk Osborne Professor of English, is a proponent of the new vouchers.
“I enjoyed these lunches,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Argus. “I wish there were more opportunities for unstructured conversation among students and faculty.”
According to Abelove, the program is reminiscent of times in the University’s past.
“Years ago I was a faculty fellow at WestCo,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Argus. “Meals were served in the basement kitchen—the food had been cooked elsewhere and trucked over—and I ate dinner with the WestCo students once a week. Since there was no agenda, no pre-planned topic, and no ResLife official in charge, we just talked about whatever interested us. I think those weekly dinner evenings of unstructured conversation were very valuable for all of us who shared them.”
Jegadish Gunasagaran ’11, who went to lunch with Abelove, said that the professor had other stories to tell about the University.
“I am currently taking ‘Poetics & Politics of New York City’ with [Abelove],” he said. “This is my second class with him. I also took ‘Culture of Gay Liberation’ with him in the spring of 2010. Six or seven students went with him to the Daniel Family Commons. We talked about life after Wesleyan, he gave us advice, and he told us about the personals section that the Argus used to have.”
Audrey McGlinchy ’11 also participated in the lunch with Professor Abelove.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to speak with professors in a setting more casual than class or office hours,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Argus.
Although Whaley did not deny the appeal of the program for the University’s image, it was not his central concern in developing the initiative.
“When people think of these kind of colleges, for some of them, this is one of the things they hope for,” he said. “We didn’t model this off of anyone else’s program, it was just an idea that we had. What we’re really trying to do is encourage the relationship and the informal intellectual discourse… that’s part of what students are paying for, and it’s part of the environment that faculty are choosing when they come to work here.”