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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 24 · Number 4 · Summer 2007

Cookie illustration

Campus Views

Tough Cookies

Students turn a suspicious eye toward cookies. What’s this world coming to?

“Free milk and cookies!” Nicholas Barry cheerfully called out from a table outside the Memorial Union during finals week this spring. A handmade sign hanging in front of the table read: “You have finals. We have cookies.”

There were no strings attached to the store-bought sandwich cookies or the paper cups of milk—nothing to buy, no petitions to sign, no groups to join. Barry, a graduating senior in international relations and economics from Marin County, and friends said they were hosting the cookie- and milk-give-away as a friendly stress reliever.

But more often than not, students politely declined the treat or looked the other way and walked on by.

“People think there’s a catch,” said Danielle Lee, a third-year nutrition major from Reedley. “They think we’re trying to get them to sign up for something.”

With finals winding down, there were few people hanging out on the Quad. A student made a quick beeline past the cookie table—telltale white cord hanging from the earbuds in her ears—and never made eye contact.

“It’s so easy for people to tune you out,” Lee said. “They have headphones, cell phones. Some don’t want to interact.”

Surprisingly, some things are easier to give away than cookies—like hugs. Jon Chiu, a fourth-year English major from Danville, helped his friends hand out the cookies, sampling a few organic chocolate ones himself. Chiu said business was much more brisk fall quarter when he offered free embraces. Each Friday from noon to 3 p.m., he would stand near the Quad holding signs that read: “I believe in you,” “Talk to me,” “Hi,” “I your smile” and “Don’t panic.”

Each week, he said, one more person volunteered to join his hug-giving team.

Chiu said one Friday he went to catch a bus home, still carrying one of the free-hugs signs. About five people approached him to take him up on his offer; he missed the bus.

Chiu, who was also Karma Patrol director for this year’s Whole Earth Festival, estimated that he gave away about 80 hugs fall quarter. Hearing that, his friend Barry smiled. “It’s not how many he gave but what he got.