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Where I study, it is normal even for advanced courses that the instructor for a class makes a "cake list" consisting of student names who each bring a cake (it could be other stuff, like cold drinks, but usually it's cake) to share with the rest of the class.

Is this acceptable behavior? I can think of many drawbacks of such an initiative (not all of them apply to me personally, but some do)

  • While not obligatory, it requires students to pronounce, in front of all other students, that they do not wish to participate. This is an awkward position to put somebody else in, especially during the first day of class, and it gets worse when somebody actually brings a cake: does the person who refused to be on the list get to eat the cake? Even if they do, I am sure they'll feel a bit uncomfortable doing so.
  • Classes should be focused on study, not on eating stuff.
  • Some students will find it annoying that while they're trying to do a hard problem or read a difficult section in a book, everybody else is eating and enjoying a cake which is also being passed back and forward, adding to the distruption.
  • Some students will be on diets or other health plans. They could refuse the cake, but why force them to make that choice in the first place? For many, this is a known problem.
  • Cakes and cold drinks can dirty the place up, with crumbs, wet marks, and so on. Somebody else will use the classroom after us, and at the end of the day, the cleaning people will have to do some work in there too. It should be left as clean as possible for them.
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    Where is this? Etiquette varies tremendously by location.
    – ff524
    Jan 30, 2017 at 0:57
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    I'm a bit confused by this. I have been involved, as a student or instructor, in courses in which food was brought into class once or twice. The way you describe it, it sounds like it is either one cake per student or one cake per class meeting (depending on the size of the class, one cake per student could be more). And this happens in every class? So am I to understand that at your institution students are more or less eating cake all day, every day? May I ask where is this land of continuous cake? I'd like to visit it, but not for too long. Jan 30, 2017 at 1:07
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    @PeteL.Clark "Land of Continuous Cake" - priceless! Jan 30, 2017 at 2:07
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    While I agree that it would be awkward to refuse to participate, I think it would be perfectly all right to do so. An alternative approach would be to sign up cheerfully, and then equally cheerfully show up on your day with some healthy treat, such as sugar snap peas or some really crisp snow peas. Baby carrots and hummus tend to go over big too. You can bring paper plates and flavored, but unsweetened, mineral water. You can also set an example regarding leaving the room tidy for the next group by cleaning up at the end of class each time. After a couple of times doing this cheerfully, Jan 30, 2017 at 4:49
  • ...you can smile at a few classmates, hold out a damp paper towel, and ask them if they can give you a hand with wiping off the desks. You can say, "I like to leave the classroom tidy for the next group who's coming in." Make sure you don't say it in a guilt-trip way. // I will say I'm surprised. Where I live, in the U.S., this is only a problem in kindergarten to fifth grade. Jan 30, 2017 at 4:50

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Many hundreds of years ago I had a class on "theory of computation"* that met at a wretchedly inconvenient time: 8:00 AM on Sunday mornings, for four hours.** Someone always brought coffee and someone else always brought donuts. However, there was no list, only volunteers. Arrangements were informal and made at the end of each class meeting.

Conclusion: List, bad; volunteers, good.

*With the polished and appropriately hideous book by Derick Wood.

**This was in the United States. The class meeting time was an experiment, never again repeated.

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  • I have nothing else to add save to say that 8am on a Sunday is possibly the very worst time possibly conceived for a class. It's almost sadistic! And I thought 10am on a Monday was bad.
    – C26
    Jan 31, 2017 at 12:05
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    @C26 It was an experiment that attempted to assist working students. Didn't work.
    – Bob Brown
    Jan 31, 2017 at 12:25

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