As WU temporarily suspends indoor dining, South 40 residents say goodbye to dining in BD
Following the St. Louis County Health Department’s decision to restrict indoor and outdoor dining, all indoor dining was closed on Washington University’s Danforth Campus, Nov. 16. Most impactful to students living on the South 40 was the closure of the Bear’s Den, the main dining hall for underclassmen.
While the restriction is in an effort to decrease the rate of community COVID-19 transmission—which has hit new highs in St. Louis County—the decision for many undergraduate students translates to fewer opportunities to safely socialize with their classmates.
“I was very upset with [the decision],” freshman Izzy Levy said. “It was kind of the deciding factor with me not staying for the rest of the semester…Just because I spent so much time there and I feel like I’ll be better off not cooped up in my dorm room.”
Freshman Hallie Wikfors agreed, saying that her favorite part of eating at BD was being with friends.
“It kind of made it feel a little more normal again, even though there were the glass dividers and we were wearing masks—it still felt like a normal college experience,” she said.
Freshman Isaac Keiser expressed his surprise at the decision and what it could mean for students who remain on campus following Thanksgiving.
“If people aren’t eating in the dining hall, they are just going to go into their friends’ dorms, which is even less safe,” he said. “I think it will really hinder being able to create safe, friendly experiences. People, if they are not given access to ways to see each other in a safe, COVID-free way, will be unsafe.”
Since Aug. 1, the University has reported a total of 151 COVID-19 cases among undergraduate students. As of Tuesday, Nov. 24, there were 38 active undergraduate cases of COVID-19 reported on the University’s COVID-19 dashboard.
In addition to the potentially higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, other students described how suspending in-person dining would disrupt one of the few opportunities students had to see people from outside their dorms.
“Because we can’t eat with people inside, especially from other dorms, that is really the only interaction we would have with them, so I would say it is going to decrease the quality of student life,” freshman Chloe Finn said.
With limited spaces open on campus due to coronavirus safety restrictions, many students said they found themselves spending many hours per day in BD, using it as a space to study as well as eat with classmates.
“[BD] is all we really had because we can’t really congregate anywhere else and the work-dine-study pods aren’t that great for group work, especially because they are not heated,” Wikfors said. “The dining hall was the only place you could sit with your friends and do work that was inside, especially now that it is getting colder and you can’t work outside.”
However, despite the negative implications of the reduced safe social spaces, freshman Layla Zonouzy argued that at the end of the day, the University’s decision made sense.
“It’s not a great sign for how St. Louis is doing in general but it’s not something that was unexpected: Every health professional warned us that the winter was going to be bad. I’d prefer everyone to be safe versus the dining halls to be open,” Zonouzy said.