Yes, there is a free lunch
By Shauna Mecartea
Illustration Courtesy of Kim Rosen
It is Tuesday noon and about 40 people are seated
in plastic chairs in a small room on the second floor of Ackerman
Union. Plates balanced on their laps, they are nibbling gourmet
sandwiches and Caesar salad. At the front of the room, Jorja Leap
'78, M.S.W. '80, Ph.D. '88, an adjunct assistant professor in the
Department of Social Welfare, is discussing what the brouhaha over
Janet Jackson's bared breast says about American attitudes toward
It's all part of what is quickly becoming one of the hottest events
on campus — a free lunch and lecture, courtesy of ASUCLA.
The Associated Students launched the Professor in the Union program
a year ago as a way to let students and faculty meet and mingle
in a casual environment. Each week, ASUCLA invites a different faculty
member to speak on a subject of his or her choosing. Professor Douglas
Hollan enlightened attendees on the anthropology of dreaming in
April, while Professor Jay Hauser tackled the theory of relativity
and one-way time machines in May. So far, the program has attracted
nearly 30 lecturers and more than 1,000 attendees.
With meals prepared by ASUCLA Catering, the menus are as varied
as the lecture topics. Attendees may feast on gnocchi Bolognese
and grilled vegetables one week, Indian or Japanese food the next.
Far more elegant than a brown-bag lunch, meals are served on white
china by bow-tied waiters and waitresses.
The munch 'n' learn events are so popular that diners line up
early to get a seat. "This is about the 10th one I've been
to," says Maryam Zarkesh '02, a graduate student in education,
waiting in line with classmate Edna Cordova '03. "You get to
learn about all sorts of different things that you wouldn't otherwise
find out about. The food is really good, too."
Though speakers earn nothing more than a hot meal and a round
of applause for their efforts, faculty members are signing up in
such numbers that there is now a waitlist of those wishing to speak.