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New variant, new dining hall concerns

Photo by Jack Kelly

Due to the heightened transmissibility of the omicron COVID-19 variant, Rollins Dining Services has introduced extended safety measures in the Marketplace, including limited seating and the encouragement of takeaway dining. 

Fall 2021 saw both promising vaccination rates and lower positivity rates throughout the Rollins community and across Orange County. Cases, however, have spiked in the past few weeks. At the time of writing, the Rollins COVID-19 Dashboard reports that the campus has a 14.8 percent positivity rate, while Orange County has a 28.8 percent percent positivity rate. 

According to an email from Provost Susan Singer on Jan. 4, the Marketplace has “revised seating…temporarily to provide more physical distance among groups.” Additionally, students are encouraged to “limit dining to small groups of roommates or friends with whom you regularly meet, take advantage of grab-and-go dining opportunities, and consider eating outdoors.” 

Cristina Cabanilla, director of Dining Services, reemphasized the points made in Singer’s email. “We are implementing many of the guidelines that were applied when COVID first started,” Cabanilla said.

Students, however, are facing the reality of an overpacked dining hall. During the lunch block on Jan. 18, seating was almost completely unavailable by 12:30 p.m.—just an hour after opening for lunch. Overcrowding occurred even with the college’s request that faculty and staff “avoid the dining hall during peak hours,” Cabanilla said. “The priority [is] the students.” 

Avery Anger (‘25) stood in a line of around 10 people to get an item from the dessert bar. When asked about the crowds, she said, “It gets really crazy during lunchtime […] It’s really hard to even move sometimes—I feel very crowded. It doesn’t feel very safe, just for social distancing reasons.” 

Sydney Boswell (‘25) expressed confusion over the current dining restrictions: “[Limited seating] doesn’t stop people from pulling chairs together to still form big groups, so I don’t understand its effectiveness.” 

Other students missed the ability to eat in a group. Patrick Filios (‘25) said, “[The restrictions] especially suck for teams because we can’t eat together.” 

In addition to limited seating, the availability of takeaway containers—both the disposable paper and reusable OZZI containers—has been increased to attempt to manage seating demand during periods of heavy traffic. Cabanilla said that “established vendors provide what we ask for in a timely manner. If they don’t have the exact product, something similar is provided.” 

During peak hours, some students have expressed difficulty even getting their food quickly, despite having access to additional containers. 

Divya Uppal (‘25) said, “When I’m grabbing stuff to go, it usually means I’m in a hurry, but I still have to wait for quite a while due to the crowded CC [Campus Center] and the long lines.” Uppal also said that the availability of disposable containers varies. When she was dining on Jan. 26, she did not see any available disposable containers. 

Rollins students should be aware of alternative seating when having difficulty in the dining hall. Cabanilla recommends “students to use the seating available at Dave’s Boathouse, the courtyard outside of the Campus Center, and Swindle Patio.” 

Cabanilla emphasized the availability of the Blue and Gold takeaway meals, available in the Fox Lodge, saying, “They are not only convenient, but also provide all the nutritional value that a full meal requires.”

One Comment

  1. […] token or just wanted to eat outside or just have more space to eat with friends,” Groves said.“During the week, the CC is extremely packed. The lines are long and I feel like I am walking around trying to look for a table half of the […]

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