In 2009, reeling from the shrinkage in its $32 billion endowment, Harvard moved to slash costs by cutting back on the cookies served at faculty meetings. Eliminating the cookies, we were told, saved $500 per meeting, thus raising the obvious question of whether the Harvard faculty was obtaining its pastries from the wholesaler who supplied the $600 Pentagon toilet seats and the $434 Pentagon hammers.
But now Harvard and the Pentagon are off the hook: the New York Times reports that snacks at a Justice Department conference to train immigration lawyers in August 2009 cost taxpayers more than $16 per muffin, nearly $10 per cookie or brownie, plus $5.57 each for 1,334 cans of soda. The $500 cookie spreads are back at Harvard, by the way. Harvard investments are doing so well that the faculty can afford them once again.