A new year and a new semester have begun, and already we are facing questions about how the University will function under yet another COVID-19 surge. What seems like the inescapable grasp of COVID-19 has altered another semester, and students are forced to once again navigate changes to dining. 

This board would first like to acknowledge the sacrifice dining workers are making to feed our campus. Feeding a campus of this size under regular circumstances is not an easy task, but when you add COVID-19 into the mix, their work becomes that much harder. This board appreciates the dining services staff, and any and all criticisms offered about the current state of dining are not directed at dining services staff. 

This board would like to call attention to the issues surrounding the shipping container that was installed outside Upper Usdan for mobile order pickups. The container’s primary purpose was to “serve students who are self-isolating,” Director of University Services Jeffrey Hershberger wrote in a Jan. 24 email to the Justice. “These students are not permitted in buildings outside of their assigned on-campus residence.” The shipping container will no longer be in use after Jan. 31, Hershberger wrote. How will self-isolating students access food starting in February?

Furthermore, this short term shipping container solution generally seems to lack thoughtful consideration, and measures to replace the container are unclear. This is even more confusing given that the shipping container will no longer be used so soon after its installation

Per a Jan. 13 email, Sherman and Lower Usdan dining halls will stop exclusively offering take-out dining on Feb. 1. Why is dining hall seating being reopened right as students return to the classroom? This increases opportunities for exposure and is bad for the overall health of the community, and it has been poorly communicated to students. 

Per a Jan. 26 email to the community, grab-and-go meals are still highly encouraged for on-campus students, while limited in-person seating will be offered in the dining halls starting this week. Yet the “Winter Break and Spring 2022 Reopening Hours” on Sodexo’s website make no mention of whether Upper Usdan meals will be fully carry-out. 

During the spring 2021 term, there were outdoor seating options available with heaters – this board wonders why students are not afforded the same outdoor dining options now, especially as the Omicron variant continues to be a concern. These considerations reinforce our beliefs that the community could benefit from more sustainable solutions.

Dining is a significant part of the college social experience. Especially for mid-years arriving to campus for the first time, the dining halls are a crucial social hub where students can acclimate themselves to college life. Without transparency on in-person dining options, students are left with more questions than answers in this respect.

This board requests more details from administrators in the coming days about the dining situation for students as we navigate the return to campus and activities.