Image Credit: Jackie DiBartolomeo for The Campus Trainer
Hand sanitizer stations, compostable takeout boxes and empty chairs have become the new normal at the University of Maryland dining halls.
Due to COVID-19’s continual spread in the United States, UMD has implemented new measures to slow the spread on campus. With the majority of classes being online this semester, the dining halls are one of the few in-person facilities, which warrants a look at their safety procedures.
Bart Hipple, the assistant director for marketing and communication with dining services at UMD, has safety as a priority for on-campus students.
“We’re not open for dining in until the situation allows and until the university authorizes us to. At this point the university has begun in-person instruction, but has not authorized us to open in the dining rooms. We would love to welcome students into the dining rooms, but we will not do that until it is safe,” Hipple said.
Some students aren’t sure what to make of the new changes. Chris Mucci, a sophomore aerospace engineering major, misses the ability to eat inside the dining halls instead of the takeout only options that are now offered.
“We can’t sit in the dining hall anymore, which is brutal considering how much I usually went in there, sat down, and did my work while I was eating,” Mucci said.
Mucci also reminisced about the community that he used to have at the dining halls.
“I guess I miss meeting with people in the dining halls too...we would have 15 people all going to The Diner at the same time at 11 p.m,” he said.
With every worker and student wearing masks, communication about what food students want is difficult.
Matthew Daytner, a sophomore computer science major, thinks that although the masks are necessary for safety, they can make it difficult in communicating what you want to eat.
“It’s hard to hear - both The Diner employees hearing you and you hearing them. To try and communicate, “Hey, I only want a little bit of this” or “I want a lot of this,” and often I end up getting too much of one thing or too little,” Daytner said.
Although the restrictions at the dining halls are limiting, some students are grateful for the safety and efficiency this new normal provides.
Joshua Pursley, a sophomore biology major, praised the handling of the new safety measures by the dining hall staff.
“It’s definitely efficient. I feel like I get my food a lot faster. Safety wise, I feel like it’s pretty safe too. The workers seem to follow what they’re supposed to and the food doesn’t get cross-contaminated; it goes straight from them to you,” Pursley said.
Hipple applauded dining hall staff’s efforts to provide the students with a safe experience.
“When you look at the number of cases that have been identified on campus compared with the number of students that are living on campus and the number of staff who come to campus everyday to provide services, and you compare that to the rate of positive identified cases, it’s significantly lower than the surrounding community in the state of Maryland,” Hipple said.
Some students aren’t as convinced about the safety of the dining halls.
Meghan Hobbs, a freshman with an undecided major, has concerns about how the students are dealing with new dining hall measures.
“I’ve seen some people pull their mask down to talk to them [the staff]. People don’t really stay six feet apart because you’re trying to look for the food and you have to pass by people. But I don’t think they really could do much better,” said Hobbs.
Although in-class instructions have begun, it is unclear when the dining halls will move on from this new normal back into the dining halls students recognize.
“We really like being part of the Maryland community and part of providing a place for people to go, and we hope to get back to that. Right now, safety is the new hospitality,” Hipple said.