Thanks to an anonymous University graduate, 6400 students last year got the chance to forge better relationships with their often-distant professors -- and even sample some of their teachers cooking. For years, faculty members have invited groups of students to their homes to taste a home-cooked meal or chat over coffee. And in 1983, President Sheldon Hackney helped make those get-togethers a little easier -- and cheaper -- by establishing the President's Fund for Student-Faculty Interaction with an unrestricted gift from an anonymous donor. The fund provides teachers with money to entertain students for lunch, dinner, or a snack to the tune of $6 per student for dinner and $4 for lunch. But the money is not just for food -- professors have also used it for class presentations. Since 1983, faculty members have dipped into the fund 1507 times. Last year teachers set a record, using the fund 271 times -- $27,8449 worth. Faculty members may use the fund only once a semester. German professor Francis Brevart, who used the fund for a dinner with his students, said that his wife was so enthusiastic when he brought students home -- she treated them "as we treat kings" -- that he was forced to take them out to a restaurant instead. The closer relationship that developed between Brevart and his students as a result of these dinners brought immediate rewards in the classroom, the professor said. Knowing the students personally "made work in the classroom pleasant," and students began to speak out in class and attend more office hours. "This is unkown at my other universities," said Brevart, who has also taught in Canada and Germany. "I speak to other colleagues, and these programs don't exist." "I never had this when I studied -- they were gods and we were the rabble," he added. Student Life Director Francine Walker said that the "major users" of the fund are those professors with relatively small classes. Walker said that hundreds of faculty members entertain students on a personal level, but not all of them use the fund. She said the fund supports faculty members who had been bringing students into their homes for years, but often found the cost prohibitive. She said that last year an equal number of graduate and undergraduate students benefited from the fund. Last fall, Law School Dean Colin Diver invited his first-year Torts class -- 110 students -- to his home for a catered dinner. He said programs such as the President's Fund, which reimbursed him $660 for the event, help release some of the anxiety that first-year law students often feel. "The first year can be a scary experience," Diver said. The Law School dean said that many law professors entertain small groups of students. (****EDS NOTE - CORRECTION - Professor should be Paul Korshin) English professor Howard Kaufold said he entertains students several times each year, although he can use the fund only once. Kaufold hosted a lunch last May during Peak Week for his students from the last 25 years. Kaufold, who teaches Madness in Literature, has in the past invited his entire lecture class to a reception, and even invites large classes to his home. "A barbeque is a good idea," Kaufold said. "I always do the cooking. Heaven knows they all eat it." Entertaining students is a two-way street for Kaufold, who said that students often reciprocate by taking him out to lunch. "I get booked up to six weeks," said Kaufold. He said he eats a Reuben sandwich almost every day during the term. Kaufold said that former Education Secretary William Bennett criticized the program when he visited the University calling it frivolous and a way for professors to fraudulantly earn extra money. He said the $6 per student for dinner "doesn't cover a whole lot," but "it gives a respectable reimbursement."Comments powered by Disqus
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