There are several reasons why folks may enter student affairs: they love to work with college students, they love free t-shirts, and they love free pizza.
Sure, we have theories about student development, but our most popular theory on programming is: If pizza is available at programs, students will attend programs.
To be honest, it works. Incentives are often required in order to sway students from busy schedules to attend programs. Offices & student organizations sponsor programs because there is a need to provide educational & social programming, but without a carrot most rabbits are satisfied staying in their cozy hole in the ground.But we really need to stop buying so much damn pizza.
#1: We aren’t training our RAs and other student leaders about fiscal responsibility. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a res hall program that has $60 in pizza for 5 students. In regards to pizza, higher education is often a terrible steward of student fee money.
#2: Such a tragic waste of food. I’ve seen pizza and other food from campus events get tossed because it sat out too long because no one took it. And when there is an excess of food and few students at an event, it makes me cringe to see one student taking two dozen pizzas. Sure, the food didn’t go to waste, per se, but it is really the best use of funds per student?
>Not to mention, many folks in America go hungry every day (including college students). For stats on the issue of food insecurity in your local community, head to Hunger in America.
What to do instead?
1. Train student leaders on budgeting & fiscal responsibility. We have students who have never handled a professional budget and may not see themselves as stewards of funds. A culture of fiscal responsibility must be incorporated into student leader training where information on the origin of funds (student fees, res life fees, state tax fees) is provided so that students realize a budget is not their personal playground. Students should learn appropriate measures for spending funds and able to calculate anticipated attendance x optimal pizza consumption.
2. Train students on strategic marketing for programs. The reason why we have all these pizzas left over is because (see #1) students miscalculate how many pizzas they need in proportion of expected attendance and students do not effectively market to bring people to programs. There are multiple reasons, but it usually stems from planning something at the last minute (“Ah! I still have to do an educational program for this month!”) and/or not marketing in a strategic and effective manner (i.e., a few flyers doesn’t always cut it).
3. Think you may have extra food? Contact local organizations that support hunger issues in your community. Better yet, see if your campus has a Campus Kitchen program. My institution, IUPUI, recently began as the 37th program in the nation and the organization has a contract with the university dining services to pick up leftover food from events to distribute in the local community. How cool is that? 🙂
4. All those suggestions above for students? Make sure professionals at your institution understand those same concepts as well. I imagine that buying excess food is just “something that is always done” as it was when we were undergrads, grads, and now professionals. Staff buy extra pizzas, too. Sometimes it is honestly difficult to estimate how many students will attend and we often believe that “more is better” because it would look bad to run out of food, right? Or, sometimes we may be so busy making sure that students know how to handle crisis issues or know how to reserve rooms that we may not consider a more philosophical (yet business-y) discussion on fiscal responsibility.
Clearly we cannot avoid wasted food, but we can try to do our best to be better fiscal agents of the university and reduce the amount of food that is wasted on a daily basis. Thanks for reading, y’all. As always, tweet your thoughts to @NikiMessmore. And to increase your appetite after all this food talk: more pizza gifs!