In the first weeks of September, the chairs and administrative assistants of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures (MLL) received an email from Manager of Business Services Fred Linger clarifying the College’s policy on faculty members dining in Peirce Hall.
The email said the Provost’s Office will subsidize two meals per month for faculty members meeting with students in Peirce to discuss academics. This policy was already in place before the email and most frequently applies to the language tables sponsored by the MLL department. The groups meet every week in Peirce and are overseen by faculty sponsors. These language tables offer opportunities for students to practice casual conversation in a foreign language with faculty, teaching assistants and other language learners.
Associate professor of Spanish and chair of the MLL department Travis Landry said the department understands what the policy is intended to do, but he is not sure it accommodates the specific needs of the MLL department.
Although intended to facilitate academic tables, the policy does not work so well in practice, because the tables are often run by only one faculty member. Those faculty members run out of College-funded meals before the end of the month.
Theoretically, multiple professors could take turns hosting the language programs. But many of the College’s languages programs are run by only two professors, making this less feasible. Some two-faculty programs within the department are Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Italian.
“If you have a language discipline that only has two faculty members, they wouldn’t both be able to attend all four weeks of a month,” Landry said.
When a professor dines in Peirce more than twice a month, the cost either comes out of their own pocket or their department’s funding. Meals at Peirce cost about $8.
Associate Provost and Professor of History Jeff Bowman said he understands Landry’s point but does not believe the policy should be changed to accommodate the MLL department specifically. “The principle beneficiary of this program is MLL,” Bowman said. “If he wants to talk about spreading those benefits of the provost’s office support of student-faculty interaction more broadly across other departments, that’s another conversation we could have.”
The policy applies to any extracurricular or academic club that meets with their faculty sponsor at Peirce, which encompasses the political science table or philosophy table, among others. These tables give many students opportunities to further explore a subject of interest with faculty guidance.
“The philosophy table helped me to engage in conversations that focuses on deep thinking,” Damon Sun ’20 said. “I could not only learn from others’ impressive ideas but share my own perspectives.”
There will not be any changes to the College’s policy on faculty members dining in Peirce in the near future.