Did you notice the pained face of the young graduate student when she realized she would be subsidizing that fried calamari, rib eye, 4 beers, and dessert that the professor across the table just enjoyed? She had ordered carefully, deciding on a salad and an appetizer rather than a full meal, accompanying it with a single beer. But now the slightly inebriated leaders had decided that the simplest way of handling the bill was to simply divide it by the number of people. This does happen; it happened at a meeting I was at not long ago.
You don’t need me to tell you that this is not fair. But it is a challenging problem when groups dine together. There are basically four solutions: have the organizer pay for everyone, divide the bill evenly, convince the servers to issue separate bills to each person, or have a set menu so everyone gets the same food (though they still won’t eat the same amount). A fifth alternative, attempting to divide up a group bill will be challenging, and is seldom attempted. NSF panel dinners often have set meals in my experience, at least for the one main panel dinner. The very nice dinner we had last night here at NESCent had individual food bills, with only bottles of wine with shared bills. At our table our gracious host snatched up the wine bill. As far as food went, we each paid for our own. So there are solutions that do not make students subsidize their professors. It is worth taking the effort to make it fair. Then everyone can concentrate on getting to know new scientists and talking about ideas.