After news of Columbia students’ fondness for Nutella went viral overnight, the University backtracked, releasing details of its expenditures on the nutty spread in an uncharacteristically cheeky press release.
A spokesperson for Dining Services said that the University spent $2,500 on Nutella in the first three to four days it offered the chocolatey treat in February but that since then, the cost has dipped to $450 per week.
Spectator reported on Tuesday that, according to Columbia College Student Council representative Peter Bailinson, CC ’16, Dining Executive Director Vicki Dunn told CCSC’s Dining Advisory Committee, of which Bailinson is a member, that the school spent close to $5,000 on Nutella the week of Feb. 11. Dining declined to comment on the price of Nutella when Spectator asked about the $5,000 figure last week.
Bailinson, who is also a Spectator outreach and development associate, first posted the $5,000 price tag on the Class of 2016 Facebook group on Feb. 22, where he urged students to take smaller portions of Nutella. “Please don’t take more than you need at that one meal, or we won’t be able to continue having Nutella,” he wrote.
It was unclear whether a miscommunication transpired between Dunn and CCSC representatives. A spokesperson for Student and Administrative Affairs declined to comment about why a CCSC representative would have reported the $5,000 figure.
After dozens of news outlets—including the New York Times, NPR, and Buzzfeed—picked up the story on Wednesday and Thursday, Columbia’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs went to great lengths to combat the unwanted media attention, releasing a statement entitled “Nutella-Gate Exposed: It’s a Smear!”
With a dateline of “(Not April 1),” the statement was littered with nut puns and featured a doctored image of Alma Mater holding a spoon and a jar of Nutella.
The statement denied the satirical allegation that comparative literature professors and Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientists at Columbia had received a National Science Foundation grant to study “the Proustian impact of Nutella on human memory.”
It also fabricated a quotation by Chief Digital Officer Sree Sreenivasan, described in the statement as “a noted Nutella nut and social media maven,” reporting that he said, “I’ve already retweeted this thing in several time zones myself since I assumed it to be true just based on the Nutella consumption in my house.” The press release quickly noted in parentheses that “Sree didn’t say any of this... but he easily could have.”
Students at Ferris Booth Commons Thursday said they were surprised the story received so much attention.
“I'm not one of those that people judge for taking a lot,” Tolu Obikunle, CC ’16, said as she ate a bagel with Nutella.
“It’s blown out of proportion, probably by students and the media,” Joshua Dillon, CC ’16, said. “I hope they don’t get rid of it,” he added.
“When there’s something to protest, “ Ana Camila Gonzalez, CC ’16, said, “everyone wants to put their say in.”
Avantika Kumar contributed reporting.