A group of first-year Harvard Business School students has raised over $US5,000 for a local food bank after one of their professors gained internet notoriety this week for a series of tense emails with a Chinese restaurant .
HBS associate professor Ben Edelman criticised local Chinese restaurant Sichuan Garden and Ran Duan, who manages the connecting Baldwin Bar, for overcharging him $US4 on a recent takeout dinner order. Edelman said he had alerted local Boston authorities about the out-of-date menu on Sichuan Garden’s website and Duan’s initial offer to only refund him $US3.
HBS student organiser Jon Staff told Business Insider that he first saw the article about Edelman and Duan’s emails on Boston.com, and quickly realised that the story was going to go viral. He said he wanted to make sure that the public realised there were good people at HBS.
According to Staff, he reached out to Duan before launching the fundraising campaign, telling the restaurateur that the emails “represent one person in our community, not everybody.” From his fundraising page:
Negative stereotypes of Harvard and HBS were reinforced by an article in Boston.com about a $US4 dispute between an HBS professor and a small business owner.
In accordance with our community values, we are calling on all Harvard students to flip the script by donating $US4 to provide food for those in need.
All donations will be given to The Greater Boston Food Bank, which will match all donations received before December 31.
In a statement from Sichuan Garden to Boston.com on Wednesday, Duan praised the HBS students’ fundraiser, writing, “I support Jon Staff and will contribute to the Greater Boston Food Bank.”
Edelman apologised for the email exchange in a statement on his website Wednesday, writing, “It’s clear that I was very much out of line … I am sorry, and I intend to do better in the future.” Staff said that he was glad that Edelman apologised, calling the apology “appropriate.”
“The point he was making was probably a valid one, he just didn’t do a good job of making it,” Staff said.
According to Staff, no one expected to raise this much money. “I was hoping to make a couple hundred dollars,” he said.
Most of the money is coming from within HBS, Staff said. The food bank will match all funds raised before Dec. 31, and told Staff that each dollar can pay for three meals.
The students decided to raise money for the food bank because the holidays are coming up and “this was originally a story about food,” according to Staff.
“Some people don’t have the luxury of worrying about four dollars,” he said. “They’re just worried about where their next meal is coming from.”
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