Due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases on campus amid the national omicron surge, Princeton dining halls began a staggered reopening on Jan. 9, accompanied by new changes in dining policies. Most notably, the changes include the closure of eating spaces within dining halls and all food distributed in a grab-and-go format, resembling the dining policies of the Spring 2021 semester.
According to an email to The Daily Princetonian from Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss, “Campus Dining is making plans to open all dining halls for in-person dining on Feb. 1 if permitted under COVID policies at that time.”
Eating clubs will also be in compliance with these policies.
On Dec. 8, the University released a memo that included information on how dining would operate during Wintersession activities, with new restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
According to the memo, dining halls will be reopened for grab-and-go options only “begin[ning] with dinner at Rockefeller/Mathey and Whitman College dining halls on Sunday, January 9, 2022. Butler/First College dining hall [will] open starting with dinner on Friday, January 14. All dining halls will open starting on Monday, January 17, 2022.”
In addition to changes that prohibit eating in the dining halls and grab-and-go only, swipes will also be limited to one per meal period, with no guest swipes or late meal options available during Wintersession. Students who remained on campus over break and those arriving for Wintersession will be subject to the new restrictions beginning Jan. 9.
On Jan. 5, Undergraduate Student Government (USG) representatives, Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun, and Dean of the College Jill Dolan hosted a Town Hall meeting to discuss the return of students to campus for the Spring 2022 semester and new COVID-19 policies.
During the town hall, Director of Medical Services for University Health Services Melissa Marks stated that as students return to campus, there will likely be “a significant number of positive students and there will be transmission.”
Administrators also answered questions as to how dining halls, eating clubs and co-ops would be affected. Calhoun said during the Q&A portion of the event that the University is working with the Interclub Council (ICC) and eating clubs, and that they anticipate clubs will continue to follow University guidance surrounding COVID-19 policies.
ICC Vice President Savannah Hampton provided additional details to The Daily Princetonian in an email.
“[From] 17-23 January, only 3 of the 11 clubs will be offering food. Starting January 23, all clubs will resume meal service as we are then ‘in the semester,’” Hampton wrote. “We will be following the ‘grab and go’ guidance in accordance with University rules. Our club managers are currently working with the University to see what options will be offered and available for club meal service to mirror the University dining hall experience and prioritize health and safety.”
Administrators at the town hall also addressed how food co-ops, a popular eating alternative among upperclass students not in eating clubs, can function within this new policy.
“Given the way that the co-ops work, we would really try and dissuade folks from using that model,” an official said.
In an email obtained by the ‘Prince’, the Scully co-op informed members that they will be allowed to operate as long as they abide by certain measures enforced by the University.
“Masks are [to be] worn by your members when not actively eating or drinking. This includes during food preparation, cleaning, or service,” the email said. “Members of your organizations are also encouraged to eat their prepared food away from the communal dining space.”
Nick Masters ’25 is a varsity athlete who has been on campus for practices since the beginning of January. Masters said that the policies have significantly impacted his experience eating on campus, compared to the fall semester.
“I wouldn’t say [the food] is necessarily worse, just more of a hassle,” he said. “Instead of being able to have the convenience of the dining hall, it’s a much more unwieldy process.”
For the time being, retail locations such as Frist Gallery and Cafe Vivian “are only providing grab-and-go service,” Hotchkiss noted.
Bailey Glenetske is an Assistant News Editor who often covers current University affairs and politics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @bailey.glenetske.