Dining hall restrictions change during pandemic

Students got a first glimpse of the new campus life that they would be living in July, when Shari Payne, Vice President of Enrollment, sent out a campus-wide email informing students on the new restrictions in the Beehive and Benedum Dining Hall. 

The email outlined the first steps of Waynesburg’s Wellness Plan for the dining facilities, which was to reduce capacity. This included the addition of meal time slots and an option for takeout. 

Payne said this was done to keep everyone safe and to also comply with the rules and regulations from the CDC and the state of Pennsylvania. 

“Pennsylvania has two rules that really specifically were applied to the dining halls. One was the seating capacity that you had to get down to a certain percentage of your seating capacity and the other was that your seating has to be socially distanced so six feet apart. And the two are not mutually exclusive, you have to do both,” Payne said.

The maximum capacity of the dining hall is now 174 people, a 50% decrease in capacity from previous years. Despite the reduced capacity, Payne said there hasn’t been a problem with the Benedum being over-booked as more students are utilizing the takeout option. 

“When we first started with the time slots and I first notified students that there would be a takeout option, we weren’t really sure how many students would take advantage of that. But it has been wildly popular. More than 50% of the people coming through the Benedum line are choosing the takeout option,” Payne said.

Even though takeout is becoming more popular, students dining in and out still have to follow the same guidelines.

Students are required to wear their masks when entering the dining hall, must have a staff member serve them food, condiments and utensils and follow one-way arrows—in addition to the social distancing guidelines.

Payne said these guidelines have received positive praises from the health inspector.

“I’m happy to report that we did have our health inspector visit recently and that he did comment that all of the steps that we had taken to comply with both the Pennsylvania guidelines and the CDC guidelines and that he was very happy with how we responded to the crisis,” Payne said.

This wasn’t the only news the health inspector’s visit brought. When students first arrived, they weren’t allowed to serve themselves drinks or condiments; however, after the health inspection, those restrictions were lifted.

“Upon the health inspection, he had said to us that we could get up and let people get their own drinks as long as we were frequently cleaning those areas and the condiments,” Leslie Davis, the campus director of Aladdin food services, said. 

A few days after the initial visit, Davis said another health inspector visited and said the guidelines had changed, which reinstituted the restriction on students serving themselves condiments.

“Every day the CDC or the PA health department comes out with something new,” Davis said. “One minute they can serve, one minute you can’t. So, it’s just a back and forth.”

Davis said these constant changing guidelines can be challenging; however, there has been an overall positive response campus-wide to the restrictions. 

“Of the students, 98% have really just adapted to what we’ve asked for. They wear their mask, they try to social distance, they’re following the one way procedures,” Davis said. “We’ve had a few issues with students wanting to sit together but we just have to explain it; they understood and we put the tables back. It was a learning experience for everybody and everybody has adapted very well.”

Payne said these restrictions are part of a greater goal for the university—to stay open.

“The university has been very, very mindful of complying with the regulations and we need to do what we need to do because our whole goal is to stay open … and be here for students and keep them safe.”