This story has been updated to include information about seating restrictions in dining halls and a response from Campus Dining.
Dining hall management teams were notified at approximately 3 p.m. CDT on Aug. 30 that dining spaces were to be limited to 50 percent capacity due to alleged changes in university protocol, per Rand General Manager Rebekah Beck. She said that the university notification did not mention rises in COVID-19 cases or COVID-19 related issues on-campus as the catalyst of the changes.
“I’m not sure how that’s going to affect classrooms or any other areas that have a large amount of people,” Beck said.
Per Beck, every other seat in Rand is being roped off to ensure physical distancing, and the dining halls will be using compostable products instead of metal and plastic items. The booths in Rand as well as the tables in front of Local Java and on the upper floor of Rand remain unstrapped. Chairs in E. Bronson Ingram (EBI) Dining Hall were removed to enforce social distancing. However, as of Sept. 1, the seats in Rand were no longer roped off. Beck had no knowledge of six-foot markers returning to dining hall lines.
“You guys are not restricted to come in the dining halls, to stand in line,” Beck said. “We’re going to continue to open as we progress through the semester and have more options available.”
EBI eliminated self-serve dining for main course items beginning at dinner on Aug. 30. Nicholas S. Zeppos Dining Hall and Commons Dining Hall have yet to undergo changes to self-serve dining.
Beck also noted other recent changes in dining such as the shift to in-person ordering at 2301 on Aug. 30 in addition to GET app ordering. This decision comes in wake of the Aug. 22 announcement that nine tents would be reinstalled on campus this fall for outdoor gatherings.
“We are doing anything in our power to make sure that you guys are fed, happy and safe,” Beck said. “We just want to get you guys fed in a timely manner.”
Senior Sophia Gerberg said that she felt limited in the available dining options on campus this year. Vanessa Haeh, a junior, agreed with Gerberg’s sentiments.
“I understand that COVID is a real issue and that we have to be safe but I also think that it’s unfair to have forced the entire student population to get vaccinated and then still try to limit our college experience,” Haeh said. “College is a really big growth point for a lot of people so I think the fact that they’re limiting that after asking us to get vaccinated is kind of annoying.”
Campus Dining released a service update on Aug. 31 regarding complaints of long wait times in dining halls and understocked Munchie Marts. The statement said that duplicate service lines will be established in EBI and Commons to shorten wait times and that Munchie Marts would be fully restocked as of Aug. 31. It also gave suggestions as to how to dine with minimal wait.
“The quickest food service in the evening is at Kissam, due to low volume, a student can get a made to order grain bowl in less than 5 minutes,” the statement reads. “We would love to see more students in this main campus location.”
Madeline King contributed reporting to this article.