Should one chow in class?

By Alexandra Sumner

My criminal law professor once stopped her lecture mid-sentence to ask, "Do I smell chili? Is someone eating chili in this class?" She did. And someone was. A girl a few seats over from me stopped chewing, put the lid on her container and shamefully hid it under her desk.

Just last week, a student in my litigation drafting class showed up with nothing but a Chipotle bag. No backpack. No pencils. No cares. He just grazed over his burrito bowl as the teacher lectured — the whole room smelled like pico de gallo.

Eating in class is a controversial subject: on one hand, you can get a bit hungry during your two-hour lectures; on the other hand, so does everyone else. In a class of 90 students, that can get loud. Imagine straining your ears to hear the professor over a cacophony of squeaky chip bags and plastic containers; its maddening.

This is, of course, one of the more human aspects of law school. Just as (inevitably) everyone stands up to go to the bathroom when the professor starts asking hypotheticals, there are certain universal behaviors that are both necessary and annoying. Struggling to open a bag of Sun Chips is one of them.

Ramen. Tuna salad. An entire thermos of tomato soup. If its on the list of “top ten noisiest/smelliest foods” you can bet someone’s brought it to class. It’s not that eating in itself is a cardinal sin, it’s the fact that so many people are entirely ignorant or aloof about the effect their snack (or more likely, their three-course meal) has on the rest of the class. You might not think eating a Nature Valley granola bar is a big deal, but if everyone did it: (1) the floor would be covered in crumbs, and (2) the entire classroom would sound like tires on gravel. I get that constitutional law is boring, but we still need to hear the professor.

If your classmates won’t call you out for eating baby carrots during sales, your professor certainly will. A student behind me one had the habit of getting up mid-lecture and returning with a bag of food; the professor commented “I’m sorry this class isn’t entertaining enough for you. I would hate to interrupt your lunch.” Yikes.

There are plenty of foods you could eat without being distracting—bananas, fruit snacks, applesauce—anything you would feed a toddler or eat after dental work. Open packaging outside of class, where possible. Feeling extra considerate? Pour your snacks out of the bag and onto a paper towel. When finished, don’t crumple up your McDonalds bag, put it on the floor until class is over; and for the love of God, please don’t crush empty soda cans against your head.

Alexandra Sumner is a 3L at Indiana University — Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.