Sacramento State professor George Parrott walked out of his Psychology 101 lab class Thursday morning because his students didn't bring any snacks.
Instead, he says, he went to breakfast with his teaching assistant.
The professor said students are told of the requirement to bring snacks on the first day of class. A handout from the teacher is clear "Not having a snack = no Dr. Parrott or TAs. Now you are responsible for your own lab assignment."
He said the snack obligation is his way of encouraging students to work collectively. It connects students who might not otherwise interact on a commuter campus, said the professor.
"Having these goodies in the class breaks down some of the formality and some of the rigidity in the class, which is one of the most stressful for students," Parrott said.
But students are crying foul, saying the teacher left before a review for a midterm to be given Monday. The test accounts for a good portion of their grade.
"Our education isn't worth food, it's for us," said Francisco Chavez, a student in the class.
It's also not clear why homemade baked goods would teach teamwork better than a box of Oreos. The handout offers suggestions and pictures of which snacks are preferred. It lists homemade or bakery items and vegetable or fruit platters under "Good Ideas" and Nabisco products or pre-packaged items under "Bad Ideas."
It also suggests that two people take responsibility for each day's snack in case one forgets and that they should avoid bringing the same thing every week.
The professor said he has required classes to bring snacks for at least 39 years.
His afternoon lab class brought pizza Friday, he said. But they haven't always followed instructions either. "The afternoon lab had an externally similar failure to be collectively involved a month ago," Parrott said, adding that he left that class, too. "They were taken aback. Their collective involvement has been more cooperative since."
Parrott listed additional benefits of requiring "goodies" in an email to The Bee. He said the snacks maintain glucose levels that affect mental sharpness, keep students from leaving class to find food and alleviate stress in what he calls one of the most difficult courses in the department.
But the goodies aren't just for the students. The teacher and his teaching assistants eat, but don't contribute, according to students.
"I'm not always observing how much the TAs eat," Parrott said Friday. "In the last month I've had one mini cupcake and maybe six or eight carrot sticks."
Parrott said he doesn't feel bad about asking college students to bring food to class. The cost, he says, is offset by savings about $200 which students realize by not having to buy a textbook for the course.
"This is also designed to relieve financially strained CSUS students from typical costs for texts and to provide each student the token resources to buy, bake, or otherwise access the snacks/goodies when their once per semester turn would occur," he said in an email to The Bee.
The professor, who is 67 and retired in 2006, works part time at the university. His salary for 2010 was $44,000, according to state data.
Parrott doesn't regret his decision to walk out Thursday. "I can understand the immediate frustration," he said. "I'm sympathetic, but I'm absolutely comfortable with the conclusion. The ethos I'm trying to promote is incredibly important. It may not be appreciated, and that's even more unfortunate. It speaks to their lack of understanding of higher education."
University officials, contacted Thursday, said they take the allegations seriously and will investigate.