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Flunch allocation decreases by $30 as two-Flunch limit is removed

Effective this semester, students no longer have a limit of two Flunchs a semester, but the Flunch allocation has been reduced by $30.

Previously, each student was allocated $100 per semester to take professors out to lunch through the Flunch program. However, in the past two years, students averaged just $40 a semester. With most students spending less than half of their Flunch allotment, administration reduced funding to $70 a student per semester and eliminated the two-Flunch restriction.

Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education, said he hopes these changes will encourage more students to Flunch, as he considers it an important way to connect students and faculty. 

“In my mind, the student-faculty connection is the most important aspect of undergraduate life,” he said. “I want as many students to benefit, as often as possible. We suspect that most students should now be able to fit another Flunch into their semester.”

The two-Flunch limit necessitated two swipes at the cashier—one to deduct a Flunch and one to actually charge the meal to the student’s Flunch account.

Deb Johnson, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, said this difficulty factored into the change. 

“It was challenging to handle the limit of two Flunchs per semester,” Johnson said. “Someone in our office had to review two Excel spreadsheets each morning to identify students whose Flunch had not been deducted from the limit of two and then notify the DukeCard Office to fix any errors.”

Generally, funds for Flunch come from philanthropic endowments, Bennett said. Nevertheless, he added that in some semesters Flunch has to be supplemented from other funds to support its popularity.  Last year, 1,700 students submitted a request, yet 2,700 students participated in a Flunch.

A majority of Flunchs are held at The Commons, where the buffet is $11 a person. With the new funding allocations, one student could actually take a professor to the Commons three or more times per semester instead of just two. 

Flunch was originally a Duke Student Government program. First approved in 2008, the program was designed to increase faculty-student interaction and the name is a play on the words "faculty" and "lunch." At the time, individual meals were not capped for funding, but the applications for funding were reviewed before and after the meals.

Junior Saheel Chodavadia, DSG’s vice president for academic affairs, said that the new change to lower each student's semesterly budget and open up the number of Flunches per semester makes the program more cost-efficient and makes room for funding new programs—such as Grunch. Grunch, introduced this semester, is designed like Flunch, but allows students to take graduate students out to lunch instead.

“With Grunch coming out of Academic Affairs, as the Flunch program diversifies, it’d be a safe bet to say that you’d see a decrease in Flunchs as the distribution equalizes between Grunch and Flunch,” Chodavadia said. 

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