DINING IN THE AGE OF COVID-19



BU Students Adjust to New Safety Regulations in Dining Halls

by Nica Lasater

Typically packed with students crammed 10 to a table, laughing, debating and studying together, the dining halls—the social hub of Boston University—look a lot different this fall.

Arrows on the floor demonstrating the correct direction to walk, hand sanitizer stations located throughout and plastic take-out containers are all characteristics of the new campus dining experience. And the most noticeable difference? The significant lack of students populating the halls.

“I'm used to it being super hectic, but now it doesn't even get to half its normal capacity,” Kaileen Germain (CAS ’22) said.

To ensure the safety of the community during a global pandemic, BU Dining Services has made alterations to how dining halls function this semester.

In accordance with public health and safety guidelines, changes include contactless transactions between students and workers, designated pathways to maintain distance between guests and more frequent cleaning of the facilities, according to the Back2BU website. Masks are required except when eating or drinking, and the amount of in-person dining is limited.

According to Germain, students generally follow the new regulations, except during prime meal times when it’s more difficult to maintain physical distance.

“People sometimes get really close to me when I'm standing in line for food,” Germain said. “It's hard to change something that you've been doing a certain way all this time, but for safety reasons we all have to.”

The adjustments, while necessary to protect students and workers, limit the possibilities for social interaction.

“For the majority of people, I think [going to the dining hall] consists of getting food, maybe eating it and then leaving,” Brooke Parten (CAS ’24) said. “There is not much going on besides that.”

Katie Wilson (SHA ’23) explained that she misses the sense of community that eating in the dining hall provided her with her freshman year.

“It was such an easy way to connect with people,” Wilson said. “Last year, I just knocked on random people’s doors and was like, ‘Hey, let’s get dinner together.’ That’s how I made some of my best friends.”

Even with the regulations, Wilson is not yet comfortable eating indoors, so she frequently takes her food to go. While warm weather persists, she eats with friends on the various green spaces of campus—a common practice for students.

BU’s partnership with Grubhub makes it simple to order and pick up food with no in-person interaction required. Most of the dining locations are open with reduced hours to ensure time for deep sanitizing of the facilities. These include Starbucks, Raising Cane’s, Panda Express, Basho Sushi, Einstein’s Bros. Bagels and Dunkin’ Donuts, among others.

For a full list of the restaurants available through the Grubhub app, check out the BU Dining Services website.

Wilson said she appreciates the convenience of new developments like the Starbucks walk-up window, but she hopes for things to return to normal because she greatly appreciated her daily interactions with workers. “I’m a hospitality major,” Wilson said. “You know majoring in hospitality means I like to talk to people.”

Parten is also eager for dining to return to normal in order to have the college experience that she envisioned.

“I know that freshman year is tough for anyone, especially this year,” she said. “I take everything with a grain of salt and tell myself that eventually I will be able to hang out with people more. I still have three years to socialize and make more friends.”

While it’s hard to adjust to the new dining experience, especially with previous years-worth of very socially-non-distanced dining, BU has taken tremendous strides in staying in accord with health guidelines and ensuring the safety of their undergraduate students.