My sister was waiting in line at her canteen, and before her were some undergraduates. Then a famous tenured professor jumped the line and walked right up to the counter. As the others said nothing, my sister spoke up, and this dialogue followed:

Sister: Excuse me, sorry. I think we were here first?
Prof.: I'm a faculty member.
She: Sorry, I don't mean to be rude. But going ahead of others doesn't feel fair.
Prof.: Well, faculty members are allowed instant service.

The professor finished ordering, and left. She stood there, fuming, but she said nothing else to avoid further hassle. But what could she have done better? What ought she have said?

Updated information: Following advice in an answer below, my sister asked the canteen manager, who said that there's no such official policy. He has seen some faculty members asking to jump the queue, though, and being allowed by students.

  • 3
    I'm reminded of that scene in A Few Good Men where a soldier is asked to point out where the route to the mess in the local unit manual. The underlying idea being, not everything is codified into a written or formal rule, sometimes you go with the flow. It doesn't matter how famous the professor is. If he said he is exempt from the queue, take it in good faith. If you have reason to disbelieve, challenge him. Going behind his back and checking for the rule shows an attempt to prove him a liar. Jun 21 '18 at 7:41
  • 2
    In the UK many Universities have a separate "staff dining room" (canteen) where students are not permitted, or "senior common room", where UG students are not permitted. Jun 21 '18 at 7:46
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    I am closing this question because: 1) The titular question is about an interpersonal issue unrelated to academia, which is evidenced by other incarnations on Interpersonal SE and on Travel SE by the same asker. 2) The question that was answered (roughly: “What can/should I do against this?”) could fit this site, but is very broad without further details such as affiliation between canteen and university, etc. As the scenario is fictive, the asker can obviously not provide these details.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jun 23 '18 at 13:24
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    @Wrzlprmft Indeed, based on some past questions of this user on this site, I am having difficulty taking his or her questions in good faith.
    – Yemon Choi
    Jun 26 '18 at 14:55
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    @Greek-Area51Proposal: So, within a few months, three members of your family were cut in line in a hauntingly similar way?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jun 27 '18 at 5:37

It would be worth inquiring a bit more deeply into this matter, since the mere absence of a written rule does not necessarily mean that it is not an actual rule of the canteen. (There are many genuine rules of conduct in the world that are unwritten, or are written somewhere you don't easily find them.) The simplest thing to do here would be to contact the canteen manager (rather than the department staff) and inquire as to whether there is any policy or practice of serving faculty before students. You should also find out if the canteen is run by the university, or if it is a separate business entity contracted by the university.

Once you have established whether this alleged faculty preference is a real policy of the canteen, you will then know where to direct your criticism. If it is a genuine policy of the canteen, and you object to this policy, you have the ability to raise the matter with the canteen and the university, and ask them to change this practice. (Welcome to the wonderful world of political lobbying.) If, on the other hand, this is not a real rule, then it appears that the professor in question is either labouring under a mistaken belief in some special privilege, or he is just making it up. Either way, you then have the ability to raise the matter directly with this professor, or with his department, and request that he not cut-in-line at the canteen. You would also have the ability to make a complaint, and you could then back this up with communications with the canteen showing that there is no genuine rule or practice of this kind. Given that many universities/faculty members hold themselves out as holding very egalitarian political beliefs, it is also potentially somewhat embarrassing to conduct such a practice.

It is not completely unheard of for businesses to have preferential rules for service for certain groups of customers (e.g., movie theatres might have a separate fast-line for pre-bookings or special members). In the case of a university it is likely to genuinely be the case that the time of faculty members is much more valuable than the time of students, and hence, it is not necessarily irrational to impose a preferential-service rule in favour of faculty. Nevertheless, given that students are customers of the university, it is somewhat unusual to create an environment where the customer is given lower service preference than the staff. It is even more unusual if there is no signage to alert students to this practice, to mitigate their objections.

(If you decide to take this further, please post an update to your question to let us know what happened. It is an interesting matter, and I think many users of this site would be interested in hearing about your inquiries.)

Update: Based on the updated information added to this question, you now have a statement from the canteen manager to the effect that there is no policy of service preference to faculty. If you're interested in kicking up a stink then this sounds like a good lead-in to contact this professor or his department to me.

  • 1
    Did you read the comment "As the scenario is fictive" by our moderator?
    – Nobody
    Jun 25 '18 at 3:54
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    The asker asked three separate questions on three separate SE sites. One is the OP himself, one is his grandma and his sister on our site. Please figure it out yourself.
    – Nobody
    Jun 25 '18 at 4:01
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    @scaaahu That comment is unwarranted.
    – NNOX Apps
    Jun 27 '18 at 2:31
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    @scaaahu the OP's posts on other SE sites display a strikingly similar rhetorical style, always involving various family members
    – Yemon Choi
    Jul 2 '18 at 14:18
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    @scaaahu Thanks. I meant posts other than the ones you refer to, i.e. concerning different topics - but perhaps you have noticed those too. E.g. travel.stackexchange.com/questions/116165/… and travel.stackexchange.com/questions/117734/…
    – Yemon Choi
    Jul 2 '18 at 18:57

Just let it go. It's unfair and extremely annoying; it's also not worth the hassle.


Sounds like the prof is an unpleasant person but there is no law against unpleasant people. You might ask what redress the prof would have if your sister cut in line in front of him, other than to shout at him. I doubt there are line police ready to jump in and arrest anyone not respecting queue etiquette.

I would doubt there is any written rule that any has to respect a queue at all, its just common courtesy, thus I doubt there is a rule that says tenured factulty can cut in. It may be custom at this uni that they do. Sounds like a terrible custom to me but there you go. Personally I wouldn't jump the queue even if that were the custom.

  • 2
    if there is a student newspaper (with student originated comic strips on mocking the trials of student uni-life), one might be tempted to suggest it as topic for one of the strips.
    – Carol
    Jun 21 '18 at 15:41

Important to know when to pick your battles. I would let it go and move on with more important matters in your life. Unless it happened again, then we might have a show down, depending on how hungry I was. If it would make you more comfortable, find out if there is a rule or custom that addresses matter. Then you will know how to proceed should it happen again. Remember darling, good manners are what separates us from the animals.

  • "Rule or custom" - like, don't be a dick?
    – user68958
    Jun 23 '18 at 9:13
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    Good manners also dictate that you don't address random strangers as "darling". Are you secretly OP's significant other?
    – nengel
    Jun 23 '18 at 15:14
  • LOL! Touché Nengel!
    – RCStan94
    Jun 25 '18 at 19:06

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