DCCE Plans to Re-Open the Den and Return to In-Person Dining in January

Dining, Conferences and Campus Events (DCCE) hopes to transition from its current grab-n-go system to regular seated dining at the end of January, provided COVID-19 testing results improve. They plan to re-open the Den for take-out lunch as early as next week. 

When students returned to campus in 2022, they experienced grab-n-go dining for the first time since the 2020-2021 academic year. This transition was part of a list of changes to the public health policies implemented by the college for the start of the winter semester in light of the omicron variant. 

According to Josh McIntosh, Vice President of Campus Life, grab-n-go dining prevents potential COVID-19 exposures in a regular dining setting where large numbers of students eat unmasked with groups of friends, often for long periods of time.

“We really do anticipate that this is going to be a short period of grab-n-go and that we will be back to normal in a short period of time,” said Cheryl Lacey, Director of Dining Services.

In his Jan. 14 Campus Update for Students, McIntosh wrote, “It is our hope and plan to return to in-person dining in Commons beginning Sunday, Jan. 30, provided that the results of the next several testing cycles indicate that it is safe to do so.”

DCCE plans to reopen the Den before Jan. 30.

“Next week we are going to start a limited take-out lunch operation in the Den, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday,” Lacey said. “What we hope is that we get back to full operation, a regular Den and some late night service, even though it will probably be limited to the number of days of the week initially.”

As emphasized by McIntosh, the relaxation of current public health and dining policies depends largely on the results of the next few COVID-19 testing cycles. Lacey asks that students take the college’s COVID-19 protocols very seriously.

“It really helps if people come into Commons wearing their masks — disposable masks — that is huge. I would also be cautious about spending too much time with lots of people on or off campus, because we are in the midst of this omicron variant.”

Students can find recent updates on masking policies and types of acceptable masks here.

Lacey pointed out the significant differences between the current grab-n-go system and the 2020-2021 model.

“Last year, at the beginning of the pandemic, nobody knew whether or not the virus could be transmitted through surfaces, so we had a lot more restrictions on social distancing, masking, capacity, disinfection … everything was much more elaborate. Food pick-up was spread between Commons and the Gray Cage.”

Additionally, students could not serve themselves — all food was either prepackaged or had to be served directly from staff to student, which required significantly more labor. Grab-n-go was in place for the entire 2020-2021 school year.

In the 2022 winter semester, grab-n-go looks a lot different, as it has no capacity restrictions and all food is being self-served in Commons.

Christine Schwartz, Associate Vice President for DCCE, said, “Dining would like to be back to seated dining as much as the students. We believe that through the sharing of food, which is locally sourced, skillfully prepared and thoughtfully served, we can create an environment that fosters collaboration, community engagement and individual growth.”