Before getting into the issue at hand, it’s important to acknowledge this is the Editorial Board’s second piece about dining hall takeout in under four months. Dining hall policies affect everyone in the University of Connecticut community, as it is virtually impossible to avoid contact with in-person dining hall attendees.
UConn has been in the red level for COVID-19 guidelines since in-person learning resumed. The goal of this heightened safety measure is to keep cases low so campus can move back to the orange level and beyond. Current rules include an outdoor mask mandate and a temporary ban on guests in residence halls. Unfortunately, these changes do not seem to have spread to UConn dining.
Seven out of eight dining halls only offer takeout options to those with pre-approved accommodations or those who are quarantining. While allowing quarantined students access to takeout is a no-brainer, it is purely a reactionary measure. The only way to truly ensure people living on campus feel safe is to provide them with precautionary measures as well. The easiest precautionary measure to institute would be a universal dining hall takeout option.
This policy was successful in the fall. UConn was able to stay out of red throughout the entirety of last semester, so why change what worked? As we argued in our previous takeout editorial, a shortage of boxes is not an excuse, as a system run on a bring-your-own container basis would not be difficult to develop.
It is worth noting there is one takeout option still open to all with a meal plan: Buckley dining hall. While something is definitely better than nothing, this policy promotes blatant inaccessibility. If we are going to be required to eat in at seven of the eight dining halls, the one takeout-friendly hall should be more centrally located. For example, someone living in the Northwest residence halls should not have to walk 2.4 miles round-trip just for a takeout meal. Unfortunately, there is no option that works best for everyone, but choosing a location that sits on the boundaries of campus just makes no sense.
Last time we discussed this issue, UConn was under the leadership of interim President Agwunobi, but as of Monday, we are now in the transition period to interim President Maric’s term. Transition periods are great for evaluating current approaches to certain issues, and dining hall policies should absolutely be reassessed. Whether the solution is a former proposition, a variation of a plan or something completely different, the rules as they stand do not logically substantiate the urgent nature of the red level.