The dining hall is back to normal, and I can’t believe it

Students+dining+in+the+dining+center+in+March+2019.+

Photo: Beacon Archives

Students dining in the dining center in March 2019.

By Mariyam Quaisar, Living Arts Editor

With Emerson returning to an in-person semester this fall, many pre-pandemic practices have made their triumphant return — including the dining hall, which sent my jaw straight to the floor. 

“Everything across campus, except for classrooms, is back to full capacity and full operations, and the dining center is one of those so we can get back to as typical operations as possible,” said Assistant Vice President for Campus Life and “COVID Lead” Erik Muurisepp. 

The dining experience is significantly changing the social atmosphere on campus and the pandemic is seeming to look like a distant memory. 

“Outside of masks being required as folks are navigating the dining center and the changes internally of the dining center, in terms of being served food and prepackaged sandwiches, we have kept that in place,” Muurisepp said. “Those are the COVID protocols in addition to cleaning and sanitizing.” 

As a sophomore, my first-year dining experience consisted of takeout boxes, a black lunch bag, and one-person-per-table seating. A coffee maker and waffle maker seemed like a foreign concept, until now. My editor had to explain what “Center Stage” was. 

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Upon walking into the dining hall on Saturday, Aug. 28, my jaw fell to the floor. Now, takeout boxes are optional—there are cups, plates, metal utensils, and bowls; there are burgers everyday and there’s sea salt caramel gelato. There’s people everywhere—sitting in booths or high rise chairs, walking around to talk to friends, and putting hot sauce on their eggs. Dining has completely transformed.

Sophomores did not get the opportunity to experience the real Emerson during the 2020-21 school year. With rules changing on a whim and COVID still being unpredictable, it was difficult to be a real college student. 

Last year, I found the dining hall to be a drag and tried to go there as little as possible. This year, I look forward to seeing what cuisine I want to try. I look forward to drinking water out of real glass cups. For me, because of the dining hall’s atmosphere, even the food didn’t taste too delicious. Today, that same food tastes incredible and I can’t get enough, to the point where I send my parents a picture of my food everyday. 

Sophomore Sara Kates said she was worried about not being able to spend board bucks at local restaurants.  

“I was honestly scared because I didn’t know what I would eat this year,” Kates said. “I got so used to eating at Blaze, Tatte, and Jefe’s whenever I didn’t want to go to the DH, but now I love going to the DH. It’s a completely different experience.”

As pre-pandemic practices come back to Emerson, the campus feels more welcoming and comfortable to Sophomore Gina Foley. 

“Last year it was so deserted,” Foley said. “There were never any people and you’d have to go back to your dorm and eat. Now, half the fun is being able to sit in a booth and eat with your friends while watching all the people who are coming and going.”

Sophomore Olivienne Redding said the campus experience so far this fall has been lightyears better than her first year. 

“It was easy to get homesick last year,” Redding said. “Being in your dorm most of the time, having to eat in there and do school there was tough. I’m so grateful the dining hall is back to normal, it makes it easier to be away from home when you can eat with friends and experience college in a different, more fun way.”

While Emerson is home to 14 positive COVID-19 tests since Fall 2021 testing began, the cases have no link to regular dining. 

“That’s the importance of contact tracing to identify where potential cases come from and any potential exposures, but we have not seen any trends or themes based on the cases we’ve seen so far,” Muusirepp said. 

The dining staff is well equipped in keeping the dining hall a safe and comfortable area for students and staff. 

“Additional cleaning is happening around the stations, dining staff in general certainly all have the proper training and understanding of cleaning and sanitizing,” Muusirepp said. “They’re testing like everyone else. We continue to monitor so if we see concerning trends we’ll certainly address those, but we’re hoping to keep it open as is.”