The Provost’s office has announced the creation and launch of a new program, “Take Your Professor to Lunch,” for the spring semester. Through this program, students have the opportunity to invite their professors to lunch at the Wood Dining Commons. The purpose of this program is to allow students and faculty to engage in casual conversations while taking advantage of the dining services on campus.
All students are eligible to participate in this program but are limited to two meals a semester. All faculty are able to participate once they sign up, and are limited to three meals a semester with different students. According to the Provost’s office, at least 60 professors have already registered for the program with more doing so every day. If a professor has not yet signed up for the program they can do so at any time, barring a 48-hour grace period for their ID card to get activated.
The organization of these lunches will be at the discretion of both faculty and students. Students are encouraged to invite their professors to lunch, working within the confines of both parties’ schedules.
Before swiping in, students need to inform the person working the Wood Dining Commons desk that they are taking their professor to lunch and their professor will use their ID card to swipe in. The Provost’s office will be covering meals for the faculty while student’s meal plans will be charged as usual. A concern brought up to the Provost by The Weekly was students who may have limited meal swipes a week or commuter students who don’t have meal plans.
Provost Laura Furge, Ph.D., said that students experiencing financial hardship who are concerned about their ability to participate in this program should email the Provost’s office to come up with a solution. The coverage of the faculty’s meals will come out of discretionary funds “that can be used to build community on campus,” said Furge.
Spurred by faculty interest to have more opportunities to gather with students, the hope of this program is to facilitate informal interactions between faculty and students; benefiting the Muhlenberg academic community. The ability to engage in these meetings will allow students and faculty to connect on a level that isn’t limited by the formal classroom setting. This, in turn, translates to a more productive academic setting. Furge hopes that this environment will “bring us together and also help us learn across difference.”
She also noted that it is important for members of a community to be in conversation with one another saying, “You can’t do hard things, you can’t talk about hard things if you haven’t made some effort to get to know the person.”
Paige Majewski ‘24, expressed her concerns about the efficacy of the program, saying, “As someone who pays for a smaller dining plan that requires me to budget my swipes to only four swipes a week, I find it a bit unfair that students are expected to use their swipes for this experience while salaried professors are entering the dining hall for free. If they want to promote this program, which could ultimately be beneficial, I think it would be much more reasonable for the school to offer both the student and the professor free entrance into the dining hall.”
Vivian Jaber ‘24, also shared her reservations about the program. “While I do like that idea, I think it’s very problematic and inconsiderate. Majority of commuter students including myself don’t have a meal plan, so when I hear about this new plan, the first thing I think of is ‘oh, so that doesn’t take me into consideration’ which is sadly much like any other plan or event on campus. I think it’s a very great opportunity and initiative to build your network and connect with professors on a deeper level, but it’s not inclusive of commuters. I think in the case where the college wants to implement this, they should consider commuter students and perhaps give them a free pass of going in with the professors.”
In addition to the academic community, Furge believes that the “Take Your Professor to Lunch” program will benefit the Muhlenberg community as a whole because “by increasing informal conversations we hope to create spaces for discussions on multiple topics, such as potential opportunities at Muhlenberg and beyond, [while] learn[ing] about faculty careers, shared research interests, strategies for work/life alignment and more. At the same time, it is a way for faculty to learn more about what students value and what students are curious about beyond their classes. And, as [noted] above, strengthening the community benefits the entire community.” Having the ability to see another side of both professors and students, “We think this is one of the advantages of choosing Muhlenberg—to be able to come together and share ideas and perspectives between our talented students and faculty over some delicious food,” said Furge.
The “Take Your Professor to Lunch” program is active and the Provost’s office is encouraging students to reach out to both their favorite professors and ones that they want to get to know better to arrange lunch.