At last Friday’s faculty meeting, Senior Vice President and Dean for Student Affairs Janet Lohmann announced changes to the Division of Student Affairs’ policy on meal tickets for faculty, surprising some faculty members.
A meal ticket allows a faculty member to get a free meal swipe at Moulton and Thorne Hall if they attend with or are invited by a student. Prior to this semester, Student Affairs had issued each faculty member five meal tickets per year to eat with students, and faculty were able to request additional tickets if they ran out. At the meeting, Lohmann announced that going forward each faculty member would now be given five meal tickets per semester but would no longer be able to request additional tickets.
Lohmann emphasized that Student Affairs-issued tickets are intended only for relationship building between faculty and students. She added that an audit conducted by Student Affairs during this past summer revealed a surge in ticket usage and that faculty often used tickets for academic purposes—like hosting office hours—instead.
Lohmann suggested that faculty who wish to eat in dining halls for academic or interdepartmental meetings should rely on funding from their respective departments rather than Student Affairs.
Associate Professor of Asian Studies Vyjayanthi Selinger was surprised to hear that faculty had increasingly been using the tickets for academic reasons, adding that she used the tickets to build connections with students outside of the classroom or office hours.
“I’ve caught up with a student who was never in my class and never took my class but wanted identity-based mentoring … as a South Asian woman,” Selinger said.
Professor of English and Cinema Studies Aviva Briefel agreed.
“Meeting students and advisees over a meal is a great way to connect with them in a more casual way,” Briefel wrote in an email to the Orient.
Selinger shared Briefel’s appreciation for the relaxed environment the dining halls provide, adding that meals allow faculty to break down the formal boundaries that often separate them from students.
“The meal ticket was always a way for social signaling—if you’re nervous to be in my office or it feels really formal, having a meal can break down some of the boundaries,” Selinger said.
Meeting students during mealtimes also allows faculty more flexibility in their often already full days.
“[Meals provide] a convenient way to integrate such meetings in our collectively busy schedules, as many [faculty] take a break for lunch,” Briefel wrote.
Both Briefel and Selinger suggested new ways in which Student Affairs could continue issuing more tickets for faculty to connect with students.
“Perhaps it could just be a beverage card because, often, we’re not actually having a meal with a student,” Selinger said.
Briefel hopes faculty will be offered additional meal tickets in the future.
“If the concern is that faculty are misusing tickets, then perhaps policies can be put in place to restrict the types of situations in which we can use them,” Briefel wrote.
Selinger acknowledged that faculty will be able to use departmental funding or other means to pay for additional meal tickets but said that the change was meaningful because of the message it sends to faculty.
“A budgetary shift also makes it a little bit of a cultural shift,” Selinger said.