The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

UMW aims to offer indoor dining options by January

3 min read

In response to students' calls for indoor dining, plans are being drawn up to allow for students to reserve indoor dining spaces. | Hannah Unger, The Blue & Gray Press


Staff Writer

A sub-group of the COVID-19 implementation team decided in a meeting on Oct. 19 that indoor dining options will be available by reservation as the weather gets colder. Because dining has only been available outside this semester, many students want indoor dining options as long as they are deemed safe.  

“There will be the option to eat inside through a reservation system. We are working on details but students are going to need to use the BITE app if they want to make reservations,” said CJ Porter, director of Transfer and Off Campus Student Services. “There will be places where one, two and four people can eat together, but those people must be part of your family group – roommates, suitemates, teammates.”

Staff is currently working on getting the reservation system up and tested and will open indoor dining in January unless weather conditions require an earlier start date.

Under MMDC, students must remain physically distant in all aspects of campus life, including dining. Currently, there are tents outside of the University Center for students to eat their meals throughout the day. Chairs are set up six feet apart to comply with social distancing guidelines.

Without a dorm to go eat in and the lack of indoor dining options, students who commute to campus have been left to find new options for places to eat on campus when the weather is bad, sometimes having to resort to their cars. 

“When the weather is bad, I’ll go eat in my car or inside Jepson,” said junior biology major and commuter student Trinity Chase. “Wherever I can find a table really. It just feels odd to eat in an academic building.”

Many students wish that indoor dining was an option.

“I think if the indoor dining options are properly socially distanced it should be fine,” said junior political science major Lauren Westendorf. “But I’m not a doctor, so maybe that might not be safe. I would like to eat inside but I get that we can’t if it’s not safe.”

Many students originally thought they would be able to eat inside the UC with their “family units” (roommates and suitemates), but that has turned out to not be the case. 

“They can eat with two other people but need to be socially distanced because masks come off when you’re eating,” said CJ Porter, director of Transfer and Off-Campus Student services and dining liaison.

In an e-mail to UMW students on Sep. 25, Anna Billinglsey stated that there is no way for observers to know who is part of a “family unit,” requiring everyone to remain socially distant when dining for the time being. UMW follows an 8×8 (64 square foot) per person constraint in order to properly enforce social distancing. 

“I wish I was able to eat with my friends,” said Westendorf. “The UC is where a lot of socialization and just hanging out used to happen.”

Students have given mixed feedback about the outdoor UC dining accommodations. 

“One student mentioned flies being a nuisance which I didn’t think about,” said Porter. “Most of the students who responded to my extremely non-scientific survey said if they want to eat outside, they usually go elsewhere. A few students have said they love it.”

Mary Washington has given students more grab-and-go options to accommodate for not being able to eat inside the University Center. UMW also created more spaces to pick up food, such as sushi pickup in the Underground of Lee Hall. Dining operations have moved what was originally self-service to service lines. Safety protocols at cash registers and food stations have also been implemented.

For the time being, students can order through the GrubHub app. This app allows students to pre-order food from the UC and other food retail places on campus.

“I think it would be nice to have indoor designated dining spaces set up in a similar fashion as those tents,” said Chase. “A lot of classrooms are not being used this semester, as well as the ballroom when there are no events going on.”

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