The Echo files: discovering the real places faculty and staff eat lunch

One actvity that captivates college students and faculty alike is eating. Students are picnicking on Johnson Pond when the sun is out, or guiltily opening a granola bar on the third floor of Miller at some ungodly time of night. At 12P.M. in Dana (on the dot), the line seems to stretch almost out the door. The same can be said of the line at the Caporale Lounge.

Although a professor or two might be spotted, usually engrossed with one another or taking the time to meet with a student, Colby is home to a proudly advertised 10-1 student-faculty ratio. Which begs the question: where are they?

With three dining halls on campus, Take 4, the Spa, real kitchens used by home-owning adult faculty who can afford healthy groceries (a relatively unpopular option for students), and all the food options Waterville has to offer, it is possible that faculty just like to spread out, and just as probable that they really cannot stand Dana.

“I know one professor who goes to Bob’s after teaching our class, but he’s the only one I’ve ever seen,”  Esther Kim ’21 said. “But if I had better options that the dining hall, I think I’d take them too.”

Determined to solve this mystery, the Echo sat down with several professors and administrators to get some answers.

“I tend to eat at my desk, in my office,” Professor Turner of the history department said. “It’s a little sad. But I do eat in the lounge in the department with other faculty, and once a month we have a catered lunch in Bob’s.” However, when he does get out, he adheres to a Colby principle: “Bob’s has better desserts, because they make them there.”

Some of Colby’s hard-working administrative faculty seem to be avoiding the dining halls not just to turn their noses up at cafeteria food, but because they just do not have enough time. “While I hate to admit it, my most common lunch is a protein bar while I am running between meetings and events,” President David Greene said. “My resolution for the new year is to eat more performance bowls in Dana!”

Colby’s President is not the only busy faculty member afflicted by such phenomenon. “I have a cabinet of protein bars when I don’t have time for lunch. There are a lot of protein bars on this floor,” Vice President of Planning Brian Clark said of his officemates on the third floor of Eustis. When he does get out, he is prone to frequenting Waterville establishments, or eating with other staff members at the Spa, which seems to be the most popular on-campus eatery for faculty.

An entirely different eating lifestyle is present among the faculty who live on campus. With protein bars hardly an option for breakfast, lunch and dinner, these are the professors most likely to show their faces in the dining halls on at least a semi-regular basis. Assistant English Professor and Williams faculty resident Aaron Hanlon may have a small kitchen in his apartment, but his on-campus meal plan gets him out of the house.

“On busy teaching days, however, I tend to eat alone in my office, just because I’m an introvert by nature…but since I have a meal plan now, I love the Take-4 option and use it regularly on teaching days.”

Hanlon has picked up on many of the preferences of Colby students; his preferred food is the noodle bowls in Foss, but he finds himself in Dana more often for the sake of variety, comfort food, and a salad bar. Hanlon appreciates the food so much he has even reached out to dining services to say thank you. His own observations mirror the conclusions we have made about faculty lunching habits: “My sense is that a lot of faculty bring our own lunches and probably eat in our offices.”

With many faculty seemingly unwilling to leave their desks for lunch—whether due to the cold or simple inconvenience—there may be a way to fill the gap. MayflowerEats is looking for a way to expand into an ubereats-esque delivery service, providing delivery to bring food from businesses in Waterville to faculty (and student!) desks. Although just a proposal at the moment, the idea has received positive feedback from professors.

“I suspect some of us would take advantage of a delivery service. I for one would love the option of the occasional lunch from one of the businesses downtown,” Hanlon said. However, there may be some opposition.

“I see a lot of people using that,” Professor Turner said. “I probably wouldn’t. Jeepers. Fewer people would leave their offices. People should get out and socialize.”

Whether our faculty eats alone, enjoys the spa, or graces us with their presence in the dining halls, we can at least ask one thing; that they eat more than a protein bar. We will see you at those performance bowls, President Greene.