No Diet Coke Culprit In Lackluster Class Discussion

Last week’s stunning exhaustion of the supply of Diet Coke in the Aldrich basement vending machine is the prime suspect in Tuesday morning’s sub-par class discussions in Sections B, C, D and E. By lunchtime on Tuesday, several professors had noted that students appeared “even more lethargic than usual” and one professor recorded a distinct drop-off in post-class pit-diving, which he attributed to the unconsciousness of four of his most rabid divers. “I was shocked that nobody wanted to tell me their personal derivatives stories.” Another professor agreed, “I thought the depreciation data in Exhibit 36 was pretty damn interesting, and yet nobody mentioned it.”

Several students admitted that the denial of their usual dose of caffeine had had a direct effect on their participation. When questioned as to why they did not seek out alternative emergency forms of caffeination, such as the Diet Pepsi sold four feet away in another vending machine, one female student from Section C stared uncomprehendingly at this reporter for several seconds before responding, “Jeez, staying awake for this discussion wasn’t THAT important to me.” When asked about the Coffee Cart, another student from the same section had this explanation: “I time my departure from One Western to have just enough time to reach that vending machine, swipe my card, press my selection, have nothing happen, swipe again, and then grab my Diet Coke. Going upstairs would make me late, especially because I have to factor in the travel time between the milk, the stirrers, and the cup-covers. Besides, the risk-return profile of them being out of hazelnut coffee and having to settle for Spangler Flavor isn’t favorable.”

Some faculty members were equally chagrined to be denied their morning fix. “One of the perks of being a professor is the flexible schedule. But what they do with the RCs here – this 8:40 every single morning nonsense – it’s ridiculous. We depend on the caffeine in the Diet Coke to get us through. Honestly, I defy you to find anyone who can discuss Bethlehem Steel for 80 minutes without a little chemical boost.”

“I was definitely less engaged,” admitted another professor, who agreed to comment on the condition of anonymity, “and I wrote the case.”

Faculty members called an emergency meeting Tuesday evening to develop an action plan to deal with the problem. “It’s a setback, no question. We’ve calculated that the deadweight loss attributable to the absence of ‘marginal oomph comments’ is equivalent to 13.7 minutes of lost class discussion time. Since there is a fixed time cost associated with reviving a defunct conversation, our models indicate about 21 minutes will have to be made up, and this number doubles with every passing week.

Among the options being considered are an evening class discussion of the same case, and four extra 100-minute sessions in late May.

Alternatively, we may work through the scheduled fire alarm in two
Wednesdays. Whatever we do, we will provide Diet Coke. The stakes are too high – we simply cannot risk the students not having each others’ full insights into the subtle nuances of the plight of Sally Jamison.”

In a brief statement to reporters, Dean Clark today addressed the issue of recurrence, which is of grave concern to faculty members. “I’d like to reassure students and faculty that HBS is looking into various long-term solutions, the most likely of which will be a purchase of the Coca-Cola Company.”

Machine logs show that the last Diet Coke was procured at 2:59 pm on Monday. Preliminary analysis suggests that the mandatory 3 pm lecture entitled “Reflections on the LIFO Reserve at the Keg O’Nails” contributed to the unusually high purchase volume.

The vending machine in question sells Diet Coke, Regular Coke and Dasani water. While the supply of Regular Coke was ample on Tuesday morning, it is poorly understood why anyone would drink it; indeed, most analysts agree that its presence in the machine is merely for show.

March 1, 2004
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