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Harvard may have spent over $300,000 on student-teacher fine dining program

Service has run out of money several years in a row

A Harvard University program that treats student and faculty members to off-campus meals at local restaurants may have spent over a third of a million dollars on fine dining over the past two years. The program, which is meant to foster dialogue between faculty and students, was founded over three years ago and has repeatedly run out of money every year since.

The Classroom to Table Program began in 2015 and funds groups of 3-5 undergraduate students and a faculty member for an off-campus meal at one of the program’s partner restaurants in Harvard Square. Each attendee is allotted $30 to spend, including tax and tip. Alcoholic beverages are not covered.

According to The Harvard Crimson, around 406 Classroom to Table gatherings will take place by the end of the fall semester. The Crimson also reported that last fall there were 894 gatherings comprising 3,408 students and faculty.

The student newspaper also reported two years ago that in the program’s inaugural year, “just under 1,000 Classroom to Table meetings were arranged.” That year, the university allotted $20 per attendee.

If the 406 gatherings this semester each had the maximum six participants, and if all of those participants spent the maximum $30, total outlays for the program this semester would be $73,080.

If all participants from last fall’s program, meanwhile, spent the maximum $30 allotment, that would represent a total expenditure of $102,240. Total outlays for the first year, meanwhile, could have totaled around $120,000. In all, the program may have spent well over $290,000 since its founding.

Data for the other year of the program were not readily available. Classroom to Table did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the amount of money that has been spent on the program and the total amount of participants in it since its founding.

After recent incidents of budget overflow, the school instituted limitations on the program. The reservation form is only open on weekdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Initially, the program placed no limits on the number of events an individual could attend, then cut that to four in spring 2017 and two in the fall of 2018.

Classroom to Table did not respond to The College Fix‘s queries asking if any further changes would be made going forward to prevent funds from running out as quickly as they have in the past.

Harvard College spokeswoman Rachael Dane said that the program was a “top priority” for the college.

“Harvard College values the Classroom to Table program, which seeks to foster conversation and academic connection among undergraduate students to create additional opportunities for intellectual, personal, and social transformation,“ Dane said, according to The Crimson.

“We know that students and faculty alike value this program too (as noted by its high participation rates) and, as such, the College has made it a top priority in our fundraising efforts,” she added. Dane did not respond to a query from The Fix seeking information about how the program is funded and how many students total have signed up for it since its inception.

Harvard University reported a multi-million dollar budget surplus in 2016 and 2017, including $5 billion in operating revenue in 2017.

MORE: University of Chicago to spend $25,000 to teach students how to ‘hang out’

MORE: When does a university’s budget become irresponsible?

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About the Author
Aryssa Damron -- Yale University