Vanderbilt reinstalls outdoor tents for dining and gathering

This fall, students, faculty and staff will have an outdoor alternative for various campus activities including dining and studying.

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Elle Choi

A dining tent was erected next to the Commons Center on Commons Lawn. (Hustler Multimedia/Elle Choi)

Ekta Anand

As of Aug. 30, 11 lawn tents have been installed for use across various parts of campus, per an Aug. 22 press release. The release mentioned safety considerations as a reason for the tent reinstallation and linked to the university’s health and safety guidelines but did not explicitly name COVID-19 as the reason for the tents’ return.

The tents will be equipped with tables and chairs to encourage outdoor dining, studying and socializing. Students and faculty do not need to reserve the tents to use them.

“I think it will be a great way to spend time outside, to meet new people and hang out,” first-year Simone Rawicz said. “There will be more space to sit down and spend time talking with people too.”

The tents are reminiscent of dining tents from the 2020-21 school year—however, they are smaller and do not have insulation and wooden floors. While there were three large tents on campus last year—on Alumni Lawn, Library Lawn and Peabody Esplanade—the Facilities Department has installed 11 smaller tents this fall. Eight of the tents are 40 by 20 feet with a capacity of 16 people, located at Benson Old Central, Bishops Common, Curry Field, the Vanderbilt University Law School (VULS), Magnolia Lawn (two) and Rand Lawn (two). Two tents will be 40 by 30 feet with a capacity of 25 people and will be located at the Owen Graduate School of Management and the VULS. One 30 by 20 foot tent with a capacity of 12 people will be installed at the Vaughn Home.

“Vanderbilt community members can gather safely outdoors beneath the tents to enjoy one another’s company” Mike Perez, associate vice chancellor and chief facilities officer overseeing this operation, said in a press release.

Students expressed mixed opinions about the new tents’ effectiveness in preventing the spread of COVID-19. First-year Raechel Rawicz said that she is excited to have more areas to sit and talk to others, and junior Griffin Klein similarly stated that he thinks installing the tents will be beneficial.

 “I definitely used the dining tents a lot last year,” Klein said. “This year, it’s good that Vanderbilt is providing an option, in terms of COVID-19 for students who maybe feel a little uncomfortable dining indoors.” 

On the other hand, Elana Agarwal, a first-year, doubts the efficacy of the tents given other COVID-19 policies allowing indoor interactions. 

“It definitely helps being outside during COVID-19, but I don’t think that will solely help,” Agarwal said. “We’re still in classrooms; we’re still coming in contact with a lot of people.” 

Some upperclassmen also expressed concerns about the tents being reinstalled due to aesthetic purposes.

“With the addition of so many tables and chairs on campus outside of dining halls and places like Alumni Hall for purposes such as eating on top of others, it would almost defeat the purpose of dining tents,” sophomore Macy Su said. “Not to mention that the big white tents detract from the lawns that make Vanderbilt’s campus famous.”