In a message from last Friday, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Eleanor JB Daugherty announced that the service of having to-go containers in dining halls will be going away come spring semester. While this is understandable, because the nation is currently in the midst of a takeout container shortage, we believe that other forms of takeout should still be allowed.
First off, the most easily supported argument for keeping a form of takeout at University of Connecticut is that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. In a separate message from the previous week, Daugherty confirmed that the university will remain in the orange designation for the foreseeable future. Unless UConn plans to change this designation, it seems contradictory that a change as significant as not letting students take food out of the dining halls would be made. As long as COVID-19 is confirmed to be on campus, students paying for dining should not be forced to eat amongst dozens of their peers, without masks and indoors.
On the subject of meal plan-paying students, shouldn’t takeout be a right regardless of the status of COVID-19 on campus? While communal eating is one way to receive meals, some might just find more comfort in eating where they choose. Whether that’s alone, with friends or in any other setting, it’s puzzling as to why UConn cares where students eat their food. Sure, the argument could be made that a policy that allows students to take food out as they please could lead to abuse of that policy, but the past two semesters have provided a large sample size of evidence that that wouldn’t occur on a broad scale. Additionally, having the option of takeout containers in the dining halls accommodates a larger range of students. For example, takeout allows students with eating disorders (which are largely prevalent in the college-age population) or students with disabilities to eat on their own terms, wherever is most comfortable for them.
Also, while takeout boxes will still be available to students with accommodations and those in quarantine, it would be a fantastic practice of universal design (the idea of creating environments that are accessible to all people) to make takeout available to all. UConn shouldn’t require those with disabilities to seek accommodations just so that they can live comfortably on campus.
If use of the takeout system was allowed to continue into the Spring 2022 semester, there is a very easy way to implement this without creating a hassle for dining services: bring your own container. By asking students to bring their own means to take the food away, this will make it so workers won’t have to stop what they are doing each time a student requests a takeout container, and it will also reduce the number of hands coming into contact with the container. Aside from this being more efficient and more sanitary than the current system, an easy way to prevent abuse of the system could be to have students show the container they plan to use to the validine operator on the way in and on the way out. For those unable to provide a container, UConn could provide each student with a meal plan with a reusable container. Either way, a form of takeout where students don’t need to use a new container each time is a much more sustainable system.
According to the UConn website, the most inexpensive residential meal plan, the Custom Plan, costs $5,710 per year. If the university is going to ask its students to pay this, the least they can do is offer accessible ways to eat so that everyone in the student body can be more comfortable.