October 22, 2008

How outrageous would it be for a professor to eat during class?

Today, I was so busy that just as I was leaving to go to class (at 3:30), I realized I'd forgotten to eat the sandwich I'd brought in. I fleetingly considered taking the sandwich with me and eating it during class. How bizarre it would be for the professor to eat during class? I mean, we drink all the time -- coffee, soda, water. Not alcohol, of course. But eating a sandwich while teaching seems just about as outrageous as bringing in a glass of wine.

***

The UW Marching Band is running around Bascom Hill as I write this. I turned off my office light so I could see what was going on in the dark and looked out and saw 4 guys running with sousaphones. (You've heard of running with scissors. This was running with sousaphones.) Homecoming weekend is starting on Wednesday. (I kind of think all the weekends in Madison start on Wednesday. I'm feeling weekend-y myself. Aren't you?)

***

Maybe I need to be more unusual. Eat that sandwich. Bring my pomegranate juice to class in a wine glass. It would be so easy to be an unusual professor!

47 comments:

Ron said...

Bring a George Foreman grill, and pass out burgers. See their reaction to that!

Buford Gooch said...

"Unusual professor" is an oxymoron of sorts. Acting like people in the community who have nothing to do with university life is about the only thing that would make a professor unusual.

Paddy O. said...

Depends on the class. I've had professors eat in seminar classes. That's pretty acceptable, though maybe for some classes more than others.

It's weird if you're doing all lecture, and eating. Well, rude more than weird.

Wine would be kind of cool, if it's acceptable policy.

Paddy O. said...

What's up with the new comment posting look. I'm all disoriented.

Simon said...

You just need to come up with a way to analogize the sandwich to the doctrine you're teaching. That way it isn't a snack, it's a prop.

Original George said...

In 50 years eating and drinking in such situations will be regarded the way we regard smoking in public today.

We are slobnation.

Simon said...

Paddy, the new comment format is even more problematic once it goes over 200 comments - unless I'm mistaken, when you're signed in it only shows you what used to be the "newest [comments]" page. So a post below that we know has some 215 comments is only displaying 15! And no way to go back without signing out! And no easy way to sign out! Not sitemeter bad, but not good.

calrablat said...

I actually did have a professor drink beer in class once, so maybe a sandwich isn't that bad.

madawaskan said...

I dunno had a Prof once that told us we had to bring him jelly donuts and he would eat them right there in the class-so top that!

Of course that was at the People's Republic of _________ .

ricpic said...

Don't do it teach. Standards must be maintained. Anyway I'm sure you've got a cache of nuts and raisins at home you can always grab and gulp on the dash to class.

Bissage said...

There was this guy in law school who liked me. In the four or five classes we had together, he presumed to sit next to me (uninvited) even though there were plenty of other seats.

I think he thought we had something in common because I used to be a programmer and he used to be an engineer.

I once said I was hoping to get a decent job and he said, literally, "To hell with that, I'm going to make a million dollars."

He would float air biscuits . . . constantly.

He got really good grades; nearly 4.0.

We had an advanced writing class together and I was assigned to critique one of his memos. To me it seemed like he wrote a bunch of declarative statements on slips of paper, tossed them in the air, and then typed out each one on his computer as he gathered it.

He never ate or drank in class, so far as I know.

Preston said...

Not outrageous, just impolite and inconsiderate. Some students may have missed lunch also.

Titusdoesntbottom said...

My 20 year old trick is coming over to blow me tonight.

I am calling all my friends and putting the blow job on conference call so they can hear it.

That is the kind of friend I am. Always thinking of the pleasure and entertainment of others.

ron st.amant said...

I don't think I ever had a prof that ate in class. Outrageous? I don't think so. I'd think it strange, but I don't know if I'd be outraged.

bleeper said...

I had a teacher who used to show up drunk at 8 in the morning. The students took advantage of his inebriation, and frequently much hilarity ensued.

Henry said...

Maybe I need to be more unusual.

LOL. You think you aren't an unusual professor?

That's what U of M needs. More omnivore diversity.

I had an economics professor who once auctioned off a dozen donuts in a large lecture hall for $12.50.

blake said...

Henry,

That sounds like it could be an important lesson.

Chip Ahoy said...

Urban dictionary, air biscuit:

air biscuit 215 up, 16 down
n.1 A fart or guff that is so potent as to have a tangible quality. A butt berp that has a physical presence, and as such have space made for it.

Air biscuits may be ‘launched’ (2), ‘dropped’, ‘pushed out’, ‘chucked’ etc.
1. ‘Fucking hell, I could pluck that right out the air and dip it my tea’

2. ‘I hate to tell you this, but I’ve just launched an air biscuit’

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
*snort*
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

That's a good one.

Henry said...

blake wrote, That sounds like it could be an important lesson.

Very much so. This was a class with one professor, one teaching assistant, an overhead projector, and 500 students. At the end of the semester we gave the professor a standing ovation. It was grand showmanship.

In retrospect I've realized that the sucker who bought the dozen (total adrenaline) missed a chance to auction the individual donuts and make a profit.

Oxbay said...

Circa 1973 when I entered college I was surprised that students ate sandwiches and smoked cigarettes during class. I never saw a prof eat; I don't remember if I ever saw a prof smoke.

I went to another college many years later and I never saw a professor do either one there.

The first college was a small, private, urban Jesuit school. The second one was a mid-size state university in a small town. (Small - at least to me)

OldGrouchy said...

Well, if eating is in for the Prof, what would be out? Would expression of amore be acceptable? would changing ones clothes be acceptable? Where does it end? Also, how would this effect the Prof's evaluation by the school or its faculty committee?

Christopher said...

A friend of mine attended the most recent presidential debate and sat directly behind Mitt Romney who, he said, took a sandwich out of his suit pocket and ate it.

If Mitt can do it at a debate, I feel like it's okay for you to do it in class.

Beth said...

I don't think I've eaten in class, but once I enjoyed coffee with Bailey's while my students took an exam. I felt guilty about it and never did that again; probably because I used to find myself in an elevator with a finance professor who always smelled strongly of scotch, sometimes before lunch. The thought of becoming him was a deterrent.

Your thoughts on Homecoming amuse me. Wednesday's as good a day as any to start the weekend.

I teach on a commuter campus whose demographic is trending more towards younger students after Katrina. This year, I've signed on to tailgate before the Homecoming basketball game. All the colleges are participating, so I'll be grilling brats with the dean and my Liberal Arts pals.

That's boring, sorry, but I've never done it, so I'm looking forward to it. BUT NOT as much as I'm looking forward to our first football game! in more than 30 years! We started up a club football team, and I am excited. The first game is in two weeks, in a stadium I've loved since high school, in what I hope will be nippy fall air. One of my poetry students is a wide receiver, and another is the mascot; the poor guy dances around in an pirate-alligator suit (Lafitte, the Instigator; we're the Privateers, naturally.) But football! Yay!

MadisonMan said...

If you're so busy that you don't eat, my opinion is that you're not very hungry. Hungry people find time to eat. I would never eat in front of my students. How rude! As noted upthread, they might be hungry as well. If you really are starving, then you have to buy enough food for everyone and share it.

politiker08 said...

My freshman biology teacher would bring an apple to every class and slowly much on it through out his lecture. I had been warned by my adviser about his habit, but it was surreal to see it in action. Occasionally, he would vary it up with a pb&j.

He also hand wrote every test (he didn't believe in computers or typewriters) and photo copied the tests for the students.

politiker08 said...

munch*

College didn't help me learn to spell.

EDH said...

How bizarre it would be for the professor to eat during class? I mean, we drink all the time -- coffee, soda, water. Not alcohol, of course.

I had a con law class at night and it was pretty clear the prof often added a little something to his Diet Pepsi.

The Raj Man said...

Not at all bizarre...just bring enough for everyone...or get them some bags of chips and watch them scrabble over it while you eat your sandwich.

Tibore said...

It would be a bit weird. Sipping at drinks inbetween sentences is one thing, and it's not actually distracting. But chomping away at a sandwich is something else, totally.

Cedarford said...

Titusdoesntbottom said...
My 20 year old trick is coming over to blow me tonight.

I am calling all my friends and putting the blow job on conference call so they can hear it.


You're behind the times, Titus. Think podcast. Though I don't think it would be a big Internet hit to see an old queen with a tiny hog being done by a rent boy.

***************
Speaking of food, professors, and Porn - I do have a little story.

In one of my MBA classes, the Business School helpfully set out free pizza, which arrived on a class break. Now most of the class, and the Prof, seized sliced...maybe a box or two...and class resumed. We were watching a DVD of women that started microbusinesses up that caught on big, on a large screen. A comely Brit woman was talking about being a start-up member and now global buyer for the Body Shop, on the large screen. The Prof was excited about this lady, once on the Dole, getting ahead, and waving his slice of pizza to make a point or two. Then the cheese topping flew off the pizza and nailed Miss Haught-Brighton or whatever her name was right in her "projected face". Big globs of mozarella goo clung to the screen and dripped.
It was a highly pornographic scene.
A crowd of AF officers, young Big Pharma exec trackers, nuke engineers, and a few scattered managers from a plant soon to be closed & sent to China lost all their "comportment". A few "outraged" Big Pharma golden girls said they "resented" the cheers and "disgusting" remarks - mainly from the "beastly nuke engineer guys".

Perhaps Althouse has a point. Food accidents happen, no way in 100 years would you think a micro-business class would end on a mozarella facial. And, besides that, learning might suffer if the distinguished law prof taught while innocently nibbling on a big bratwurst..

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't think I would have minded if a professor had eaten during one of my classes. I do seem to be in the minority though.

Ann Althouse said...

"I had a con law class at night and it was pretty clear the prof often added a little something to his Diet Pepsi."

Wow. I just can't imagine doing that. I'm happy to have my glass of wine with dinner right after class, but I've never even been tempted -- in 20+ years -- to have a drink before or during class. Class is stimulating enough! Stimulating, but not in a way where you think you'd be better off slowed down. I simply can't even conceive of the motivation to drink before/during teaching.

peter hoh said...

A favorite professor used to roll his own cigarettes during the last 10 minutes of class. He'd fumble around in his jacket pockets to bring forth the necessary supplies, never breaking the rhythm of his lecture. He used pipe tobacco, the name of which escapes me -- I'm certain I could recognize it if I saw it.

The rolling was always done with a certain absent-minded flourish. Well done, but made to look as if he wasn't fully conscious of what his hands were doing.

Just as he reached a dramatic pause, he'd lick the paper. A few pieces of tobacco would get caught on his tongue and he'd have to flick them out of the way. And then he'd pick up the lecture where he left off.

His fingers, meanwhile, would start rooting around for the matches. Looking at his face, one would never guess that he was doing anything but lecturing.

The very second class was over, he'd strike a match while walking toward the windows, light the cigarette, and toss the match out the window. A long drag, and then his shoulders would relax.

Pundit Joe said...

One photography professor I had didn't eat in class, but he constantly compared everything to beans and rice. He was a yin and yang kind of fellow, sought balance in most things, and beans and rice was his favorite example. "Beans and rice - you need both to get a complete protein! Yin and yang! You see, it is just like photography - your photographs need balance."

While he was a bit nutty, he seemed like a dang nice fella.

Mr. Forward said...

If I ran the University, Prof. Althouse would have a complimentary bottle of excellent wine at each lecture.
Beer for the horses.

American Liberal Elite said...

My trusts and estates class met early in the morning. Our prof would eat his bagel while lecturing from the same set of yellowed and coffee-stained notes that he'd used for years. The class was universally known as "Breakfast with Bob."

Nichevo said...

Wow. I just can't imagine doing that. I'm happy to have my glass of wine with dinner right after class, but I've never even been tempted -- in 20+ years -- to have a drink before or during class. Class is stimulating enough! Stimulating, but not in a way where you think you'd be better off slowed down. I simply can't even conceive of the motivation to drink before/during teaching.

That's b/c you're not English.

Go ahead and eat, drink, be merry - but where then is the face to expect better of your sudents henceforth? If you can eat, why can't I?

Lance Burri said...

I had a professor during my short time at UW who began every class by picking up his coffee cup, sniffing it, walking to the window and tossing the contents out, then walking into an adjoining room to re-fill the cup. This continued until one day when another student came up on orders from his professor to find out who kept doing that - they had to keep the window in that classroom closed to keep the coffee from splattering in.

Kirby Olson said...

It's a hygiene issue to some extent.

You might get some sauce on your blouse.

You will probably get something on your lip.

This is distracting for students.

You will also drop crumbs out of your mouth as you're speaking. This is hard on the janitorial staff.

It also sends the message that students can chow down.

Some of them will bring carrots, and peanuts, and popcorn, which makes for noisy eating. A Mr. Bean or two will bring in a lobster and crack it during your points, making the room very noisy.

I would be mad if I were your student. It's hard enough to follow the twists and turns of a prof's logic, and getting it all right. If their mouth is full of proscuitto, it would be even worse, and the tomatoe seeds flying, and the horse radish.

Oh dear.

Jerome Cole said...

Some notions of what is polite and what is not are just bizarre. As long as it does not interfere with teaching, eat whatever you want in class. I do. Every now and then I get a complaint from a student saying that eating in class is "rude." I ask them to explain what part of my behavior was objectionable and why. Not one has come up with a cogent response yet. Until someone does I am going to keep enjoying my sandwiches and cookies in class.

MadisonMan said...

If students are complaining about you eating in class, it is already interfering with your teaching -- because they are paying attention to your actions, not what you are teaching.

lurker2209 said...

Well, I teach four sections of chemistry quiz section (meets once a week, students are in smaller groups to ask questions and get individual attention from us TA's) and I sometimes eat a sandwich while they take their quiz. But I wouldn't eat while teaching--I'd be too afraid of getting food stuck between my teeth and looking like an idiot or something.

KB said...

If I have to eat in class (which is rare), I just explain why to my students. They don't seem to mind, just as I don't mind if they eat so long as it's not a distraction. It doesn't help anyone learn if I'm too hungry to teach.

Jerome Cole said...

@If students are complaining about you eating in class, it is already interfering with your teaching -- because they are paying attention to your actions, not what you are teaching.

I don't sit and munch potato chips and lecture with my mouth full. Nor do I slurp big gulps or carve turkeys. My habit of eating in class in no way affects my teaching; My teaching evaluations and my students' standardized test scores both reflect that.

Few students complain. The ones that do don't do it again. i ask them why I should not eat in class. The answer, "Because teachers and students do not eat in class." I explain that their answer is inadequate and that a rule has to have some outside justification beyond itself.

I ask them if they learned any less while a took a bite during their group exercises? The answer, "No."

I then ask them why they came to college. "To learn," they all say. I then explain that unless you can convince me that my eating is interfering with your learning or my teaching you had best keep your thoughts to yourself.

I don't get repeat complaints.

Jerome Cole said...

A hygiene issue? It might encourage students to chow down? Give me a break.

I've been able to eat without soiling myself since my age was in the single digits. Amazingly, I can even walk and chew gum at the same time.

And so what if the students eat? I would rather have a student snacking away and getting the energy they need than have them thinking about how hungry they are instead of listening to me.

WOOOOOO. Crumbs! Distractions! Students eating! TOO SCARY!!!!!!!!!!

Eowyn said...

I had a linguistics prof (theoretical syntax, heaven save him) who was so badly hypoglycemic that by mid-semester students were (gladly) assigned to bring him something to eat during class. It was an early-morning class, he'd already be glassed from sleeping, and he'd run out the door without breakfast. He'd just start screaming at people for no reason. At first, the TA used to bring a stuffed Pikachu doll that she'd chuck at him when he was starting to flip, then people just started bringing cookies.
That said, he was one of the most entertaining profs I had, when his blood sugar wasn't plummeting.

Cordelia in a Coffin said...

Eating anywhere except in privacy is weird if you think about it. We are putting stuff into an orifice of our body which begins a digestive process culminating in a end product of which we would be ashamed to claim.