Latest Best of NY

Nina In New York: Scandal Rocks Columbia Dining Halls, Kinda

Nutella
Best NYC Eats

A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
______________

By Nina Pajak

As the beverage ban debate wages on, with Bloomberg taking to the airwaves and swearing appeals and vengeance and a pox on all your soda-plagued houses, another scandal of excess is taking place in our fair city.

They’re calling it Nutella-gate.

A The Columbia Spectator, a Columbia University student publication, recently ran an expose claiming that the school was shelling out $5,000 a week on Nutella, a European chocolate hazelnut spread commonly known as “heaven in a jar,” or sometimes “*%#@&!@*$&%_!*#%^$$?ing amazing $#^*&@>.”

More: NYC’s 6 Best Chocolate Treats

You see, Dining Services had just introduced the manna-like stuff into the dining halls, and it seems the kids went a bit mad with lust when presented with this gift from the Ivy League gods. They were eating gobs of the stuff, by the fistful practically (maybe, speculating). But the real issue was the thievery. Some were driven to even further acts of gluttony, filling to-go cups with the Nutella and even pocketing entire jars of it. To what end, you might ask. Made up reports that I just made up cite students rolling around in it, smearing it on their faces and necks (inspired by a rumor of its age-preserving properties), incorporating it into gross, drunken, dorm-room, extra-long-twin-bed sex and fraternity hazing rituals, and getting high and sitting around the jar in circles just staring at it (and then eating it on everything, duh). Who knows why young people do the things they do? To misquote Rick James, European hazelnut spread is a helluva drug.

In my day, all we stole from the dining hall was trays for sledding. And some bowls. And maybe some silverware. A couple of cups now and then. Everything else was grody. It’s all a blur, to be honest with you.

More: NYC’s 5 Best Cups Of Hot Chocolate

Anyway, the student paper estimated the initial usage at 100 lbs per day, which, extrapolated out would mean $5,000 per week for Dining Services to keep the kids in Nutella. The story got picked up in the national news, prompting the Columbia administration to do some recalculating. CNN.com printed a portion of “a tongue-in-cheek e-mail exchange between Assistant Vice President of Media Relations Robert Hornsby and Columbia University officials:”

‘It is true that in the first 3-4 days after Nutella was recently added to the dining hall selections, demand was indeed extraordinarily high, with students enjoying a large amount in that initial short period,’ Hornsby wrote in the e-mail. ‘However, the actual cost was only about $2,500, and quickly went down to $450 per week for dining halls that serve some 3,600 students, seven days a week at three locations.’

‘Ironically the media attention to Nutella-gate has cut down on the amount people have been taking in recent days,’ Hornsby added.

Ironic? Or sort of predictable? Or part of a massive, far-reaching cover-up operation by a university administration desperately trying to save face and remain in control under heavy financial scrutiny by parents and donors?

I think: B) Sort of predictable.

Anyway, what? I lost my train of thought. Now I’m all hungry.