We know that Columbia University spends a lot of money on Nutella. But not that much. While initial figures placed the weekly cost of keeping its dining halls stocked with Nutella at somewhere around $5,000per week (according to both the Columbia Spectator and The New York Times), on Thursday the university issued a remarkable press release in which it reports that the school's undergraduate Nutella habit settles down to only $500 per week, after spiking to $2,500 during the first week, due to students stealing the condiment to consume later. The statement is titled "NUTELLA-GATE EXPOSED:  It’s a Smear!":

 

Columbia University officials today denied press reports claiming that campus dining halls were running rivers of nut-brown ink to the tune of $5,000 per week in allegedly pilfered Nutella.

Columbia Dining Services emphasized the mundane fact that the ongoing weekly cost of Nutella supply is actually less than one-tenth the purported amount originally reported on a student blog and quickly picked up by other media.  It is true that in the first 3-4 days after Nutella was recently added to the dining hall selections, demand was indeed extraordinarily high, with students enjoying a large amount in that initial short period.  However, the actual cost was only about $2,500, and quickly went down to $450 per week for dining halls that serve some 3,600 students, seven days a week at three locations.  Ironically the media attention to Nutella-gate has cut down on the amount people have been taking in recent days.

The debate, as the press release indicates, comes down to how much Columbia's dining service pays for Nutella per week, not how much Nutella it purchased up front. (It makes sense to purchase  Nutella in bulk — it's a processed dessert spread, and doesn't immediately spoil.) And that number — $5,000? $2,500 — has attracted attention too, because that is kind of high even for a very tasty condiment. Bwog, a student-run blog at Columbia, thinks the University is being scammed by a distributor:

There are three possible reasons why Dining seems to be over-paying:

  1. Dining gave Spec inaccurate numbers.
  2. Spec reported the number inaccurately.
  3. Dining is actually over-paying.