Midnight breakfast returns after three years

By Michael Barnes

Midnight Breakfast, a Macalester tradition where professors, staff and administrators serve free food to students on the eve of finals, is returning to Caf Mac on Monday, Dec. 19, for the first time in three years. In the past, Midnight Breakfast has drawn more students together at one single time than any other event on campus, bringing as many as 1,400 students into the Campus Center within a two-hour period of time, according to records kept by Bon Appetit, the food-service provider that manages Caf Mac.

The popular campus event was put on hold indefinitely after the fall of 2002, when administrators grew concerned about persistent misconduct by students in attendance. While student streaking is often assumed to be the sole reason for ending the event, Dean of Students Laurie Hamre insists there were several other incidents of students violating community standards, and that streaking was only a part of the problem.

Current seniors, who experienced the last official Midnight Breakfast during the fall of their first year, remember the event as a time for stressed-out students to come together and celebrate the end of a semester with free food.

“Midnight Breakfast is a great time when people can relax and professors serve them breakfast,” Spencer Edelman `06 said of the last event in 2002. “Practically every single student showed up.”

Edelmen, the concert coordinator for the Program Board (PB), stepped forward to lead the organization of the event this semester after Director of Campus Programs Brian Wagner suggested the idea to the PB earlier in the fall, he said.

“This is in no way just a Program Board event,” Edelman said, stressing that several other departments are contributing significant time and resources to make Midnight Breakfast a reality.

The role of the PB will be primarily to advertise, recruit professors and staff to volunteer for the event and fund some basic costs, Edelman said.

Bon Appetit will provide all of the food free of charge to the college, and will also cover the costs of staff time for several chefs and cafeteria managers who will be on duty at the event, Director Lori Hartzell said.

Typically, Bon Appetit offers three big free meals each year, and in the past Midnight Breakfast was one of those, Hartzell said. The others include the all-campus picnic in the Spring and a faculty and staff luncheon in January, she said.

“It’s part of our community relationship [with Macalester],” Hartzell said. “We’re very thankful that we’re here.”

Food will be provided for 1,500 students, who need only bring an ID to verify that they attend Macalester, Hartzell said.

The PB will cover half of the costs associated with security and custodial staff for the event, splitting the total with Campus Programs, Edelman said.

So far, organizers have been successful in recruiting more than half of the 40 needed volunteers, Edelman said. While several professors and staff made reference to disrespectful student behavior in the past, most were willing to participate, he said.

However, there is still a need for more professors and staff to commit time, especially for the late shift, which runs until 1 a.m., he said.

“I’m really pleased that students have stepped forward to plan and organize Midnight Breakfast,” Hamre said. “As a Student Affairs staff we were interested in bringing it back.”

Hamre originally decided to cancel the event after the fall of 2002 because students did not heed a request by the Dean’s office to refrain from disrespectful behavior, including streaking, she said. A letter was written as a warning after several students in the spring of 2002 took off their clothes in Cafe Mac and sat down nude before proceeding to eat at a table.

“There were students who complained and wanted to file sexual harassment claims,” Hamre said of the incident.

The streaking, however, was only part of a larger trend of incivility on the part of a few students in attendance each year, Hamre said.

Hamre described students throwing things into the food that was being handed out from the second floor above, and even staining professors’ clothes with some sort of irremovable dye.

It became increasingly hard to convince professors and staff to participate, Hamre said. Hamre also had difficulty asking Bon Appetit staff, many of whom would finish at 2 a.m. and return to work at 6 a.m., to subject themselves to rude behavior.

“I wrote a letter to students explaining that we expected there to be a level of decorum [at Midnight Breakfast],” Hamre said. “Unfortunately several students called my bluff.”

During the past several years there have been attempts by small groups of students to host midnight cookouts, many involving breakfast foods, in front of the campus center as a way of carrying on the tradition.

These gatherings, however, involved no faculty or staff and usually less than a hundred students, organizers said.

The revival of Midnight Breakfast emerged from a series of discussions within Student Affairs about community building and tradition, Hamre said. The staff involved decided it was a good idea to bring back events that have been considered traditions in the past, as well as encourage new traditions to form, she said.

Hamre has been supportive of the current efforts to revive the tradition.

“I’m looking forward to it,” she said.

While Edelman and other organizers are careful not to condemn streaking as a practice on campus, they stress that for this event, it is neither appropriate nor wise.

“I understand that streaking relieves stress, but you don’t need to bring it inside and disrupt those people who are volunteering and trying to have a good time,” Edelman said.

To make this year’s event convenient for professors and staff who are volunteering their time, it is being held from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m., and event organizers make clear in their publicity that this Midnight Breakfast is “not really at midnight,” Edelman said. Volunteers will also be given a unique thank-you gift from PB, though organizers asked that the gift not be named to ensure it will stay a surprise.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering can contact Edelman at [email protected]