UB professors say they lack designated spot to eat and connect with colleagues

Professors say they mostly eat lunch at desk alone


Most professors say it’s common for them to eat alone or with a colleague at their desk, and to usually bring lunch from home, like a sandwich, fruit, yogurt, nuts or sometimes leftovers.

Given their busy schedules, many professors simply eat alone at their desks most days.

“Boring, I realize, but packing a lunch is a lot more cost effective, especially when most of my salary goes to my taking care of two young children,” said Steve Hoffman, a sociology professor.

Claire Schen, a history professor, said most days she eats leftovers at her desk while reading her email, and she’s not alone – many professors on campus said they can likely be found in their offices during their lunch break, rather than the Student Union.

Yet for many professors, it’s not so much a choice to eat alone, as it is the fact there is not a designated space for collegial discussion and a bite to eat. Some universities have faculty clubs, which provides a formal area for faculty and staff to eat together, or occasionally with students and visiting guests.

A recent Cornell University study suggests that co-workers should eat together to improve productivity, as it creates an intimacy between colleagues that carries into work and academia, long after lunch is over.

The study also says the club can be as formal as the staff makes it. It can simply provide a designated space for faculty to socialize and connect, or professors can present new research or initiatives they are working on.

Although it’s more common for faculty members to bring their lunch from home rather than buy it on campus, some said when they do opt to buy lunch on campus, they have their go-to places.

Elizabeth Otto, a visual studies professor, said she loves Korean Express in The Commons and goes there for the kimbap. Other professors said Rachel’s Mediterranean Food in The Commons was one of their favorite spots to eat on campus.

Along with the addition of a group lunch, professors also cited the need of additional coffee places on campus to quickly stop at in between classes.

“We need a Tim Horton's in [Hochstetter Hall] or the [Natural Sciences Complex] … Especially in winter, the on-campus coffee and tea is too far away,” said Jessica Poulin, a biological sciences professor.

David Watson, a chemistry professor, said another Starbucks to relieve the crowding would satisfy him.

And chemistry professor Javid Rzayevsaid although he understands the economics of it, having more food places open all year would be convenient for professors.

“It would be nice to have an outdoor eating place in the summer … professors, administrators and graduate students are still here,” Rzayev said.

Ultimately, faculty clubs can also serve as an alternative setting for students and faculty to develop professional relationships. At Northeastern University, scholar students participate in “Take Your Professor to Lunch Day,” an event that allows students to dine with their favorite full-time faculty member for a day.

Schen said the suggestion has come up frequently, including with 2020 strategic planning focus groups some years ago.

“Cost matters … students are paying higher tuition and fees to attend UB. So while I wish for such a place, it would need to be self-sustaining,” Schen said. “UB has many needs … but, I think that it could work.”

Sarah Crowley is a news staff writer and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com.