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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
Of God and Blue-Footed Boobies
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Of the Community, By the Community, For the Community
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Summer 2004 Bruin Walk

Yes, there is a free lunch

By Shauna Mecartea
Illustration Courtesy of Kim Rosen

Illustration of Students having LunchIt 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 sexuality.

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.

2005 The Regents of the University of California