Staying in isolation or quarantine after testing positive for or being exposed to COVID-19 is rarely a pleasant experience. The basic necessities like room, board, and edible food, are enough to survive a few days in the Paramount residence hall. Yet in at least one of these areas, Emerson fails to adequately provide for students.
Last week, students in Paramount described abysmal food conditions to The Beacon. Students said they frequently received food they were unable to eat, whether it be due to life-threatening allergies or substandard food conditions. Emerson must do better to ensure students in quarantine and isolation, who are completely reliant on the college for food, are receiving proper accommodations.
One student, who has a severe peanut and tree nut allergy, reported receiving Honey Nut Cheerios and two sandwiches from a facility that also houses nuts. Other students said they received multiple sandwiches and wraps that were “soaking wet” from the steam of transportation, another saying he received a visibly old sandwich sitting in “liquefied mayonnaise.”
“I’m not a very picky guy for the most part—I’ll eat whatever is given to me as long as it doesn’t kill me,” Sean Facey, the student with the peanut allergy, said in a Zoom interview from quarantine. “It’s just kind of stunning to me that a lot of this stuff keeps slipping through the cracks and that there was actually a time where I was able to just theoretically not have any food available for me to eat.”
This goes far beyond students being “picky,” or “spoiled,” or complaining just for the sake of it. Students are unable to order groceries or use food delivery services when staying in Paramount because they cannot leave their room, making them solely reliant on food from the college. Because this is the only option for nutrition (which is especially important if they are sick with symptoms), students need access to three meals a day— meals that are edible and won’t spark an allergic reaction.
Director of Housing and Residential Education Christie Anglade told The Beacon that packing hot meals for 40 students in Paramount “presents various challenges,” hence the lack of hot meals for students in quarantine and isolation. Paramount residence hall can house more than 200 students at a time. If the college knew they may have to feed hundreds of students at a time, how is 40 too many for them to handle? What will they do if more than 40 students are placed in Paramount?
When off-campus students contract the virus, they are told to isolate in their home for up to 10 days, while their roommates may have to quarantine for up to 14 days. This means the college’s requirement for quarantine poses difficulties for students to obtain food when they cannot leave their homes to buy groceries.
Off-campus senior Devin Davis-Lorton told The Beacon earlier this month that they received a positive test the day after moving into their apartment. After sending a total of 49 emails to the Office of Student Success, Davis-Lorton and their roommates were finally given a $150 grocery voucher and a single delivery of Thai food.
“I wasn’t able to access any of Emerson’s resources,” Davis-Lorton said. “It really made me think that Emerson doesn’t really have those resources that we would need to actually respond to people who are off-campus and have COVID.”
These mess-ups shouldn’t be happening, especially when Paramount is less than a ten-minute walk from the dining hall. Emerson could also take advantage of the cafe that is already housed inside the Paramount building, if they so wished.
Emerson’s “COVID Lead”, Erik Muurisepp told The Beacon the college was anticipating more students testing positive this semester due to higher positivity rates in Boston and Massachusetts. If Emerson expected Paramount was going to house more students this semester, why were they not prepared to serve hot meals to all of them?
Students shouldn’t have to persistently beg the college through phone calls and emails to have their basic human needs met. To assist students in quarantine or isolation, Emerson should set up a 24-hour phone hotline to meet students’ needs. This could serve as a platform for students to get quick help if they do not have access to food or are facing other issues during quarantine or isolation. Schools like Penn State and Ohio University already have 24-hour student affairs hotlines or specific COVID-19 hotlines.
Although it is not our responsibility to feed ourselves during mandatory quarantine, this should serve as a reminder to take the necessary precautions to avoid ending up in Paramount. Remember this pandemic is nowhere near over, and everyone holds the individual responsibility of minimizing the spread. If we are not properly social distancing, we are putting more pressure on the college.
We understand how challenging it must be for Emerson to keep up with a pandemic that is constantly changing. But really, all we’re asking for is the bare minimum. Emerson, please feed your students properly while they are in isolation and quarantine.
The Berkeley Beacon Editorial Board is the voice of the student newspaper that looks to serve the Emerson College community with thoughtful insight into ongoings and occurrences affecting their everyday lives. The board’s positions are determined by its members. The board consists of the editor-in-chief, managing editors, and opinion editors. The opinions expressed by the Editorial Board do not impact the paper’s coverage. You can respond to a position brought forward by The Beacon Editorial Board in the form of a Letter to The Editor by email: Letters@BerkeleyBeacon.com.