By Kait Bedell & Kaie Quigley – News Editor and Features Editor
The Valentine Dining Hall opened up their indoor seating on Tuesday, March 9 for the first time since the pandemic broke out. After what was a long-awaited decision based on the safety of students, the university decided it was time to allow students to dine indoors.
“Lasell students and the community have been doing a really good job staying free of infection,” said Director of Health Services Richard Arnold. “That assured us that students were doing the right thing… [and] allowed us to feel like if we opened up as much as we could, we could trust that the students would continue to do the right thing.”
“We also felt it was really important for mental health reasons,” said Arnold. “We’ve all been through two semesters of this isolation. Not being able to hang with your friends in your residence halls is real,” Arnold said. “So we were looking at any possible way we could try to improve the mental health environment… This was one area that said, yeah, we could… allow folks to socialize.”
Arnold says “one of the big things about [socializing] is actually being able to see the other person experiencing that thing. So this is the opportunity, since you have to take your mask off to keep the distance. It’s a much better social environment.”
While dining indoors, students are expected to follow a list of protocols, which include wearing masks whenever they are not eating, keeping a maximum of six people at each table. At each table, there are scannable QR-codes that bring students to a form where they fill out their name and table number in case of the need for contact tracing. Students are also being asked to keep their meals to a limit of 30 minutes.
These regulations must be followed, however, Arnold does not want students to feel overly monitored. “We don’t want to be in a police state. It’s enough of a strain on everybody dealing with this COVID and the safe distancing, etc. We don’t want to add to the stress and the anxiety, that someone’s always watching us in our activities and what we’re doing,” he said. “Sometimes there’s somebody at the door asking to see your [CoVerified] badge… that’s the only monitoring we’re doing.”
Arnold said he’s only seen one incident where seven people were sitting at a table for six. “We actually reached out to those students and reminded them… that they really need to stick to the seating.”
Students have enjoyed being allowed to eat indoors and feel the administration was safe and effective in making this change possible.
“With everything going on right now I think the staff did a great job opening it back up especially with their limited budget,” Freshman Lauren Russell said. “They are definitely doing everything they can to make the dining hall as normal as it can be.”
Ultimately, Arnold trusts that students will continue to abide by safety precautions. “If things continue the way they are, I don’t see any need for increased monitoring,” he said.