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Impacts of Commons Dining Room Closing

Sitting down to eat at Commons is a huge part of the college experience here at Beloit. Building relationships, making new friends, and creating great memories at Commons are some of the best parts about this school. The pandemic has of course made that more challenging, and the school has done everything in its power to keep everyone safe. In addition to implementing a COVID-19 booster mandate, the Beloit College COVID-19 Task Force decided to close Commons dine in. 

Despite this, Hamilton’s has remained open for dine in, leaving many to wonder if there is another factor other than COVID-19 influencing this change. For example, there is a labor shortage in the United States right now that could be affecting staff at Beloit. Dean of Students Cecil Youngblood made it very clear that this policy is a direct result of the new COVID-19 variant.

“The only thing that influenced this decision was the rise of Omicron cases. This was a precaution we took to limit the spread,” Dean Cecil Youngblood said. “We were able to get through last semester, but in January, things changed. Nothing stays stagnant about COVID.”

For some students, closing Commons dining incentivizes eating off campus because they want to sit down, eat, and hang out with their friends. The problem with this is that students are going to restaurants where no one is wearing a mask and the vaccination rate is significantly lower than on campus.

Another disadvantage of Commons dining being closed is the buildup of garbage in the dorms on the weekends. Because everyone is bringing food back to their rooms either from Commons or off campus, trash always overflows and eventually ends up on the floor. This makes life miserable for the housekeepers who have to pick it up, and this could easily be avoided if Commons dining reopened.

The addition of Hamilton’s dinner grab & go has been a huge positive as a result of Commons dining area getting closed. Ken Hnilo, general manager of Bon Appétit, detailed the success of this new idea.

“We have seen an increase in traffic during the dinner hour. Students seem to love the ‘Create

Your Own Bowl’ concept, and bringing back the Powerhouse pizza has been a huge hit,” Hnilo said. “Many students have commented they like bringing food back to their rooms for an additional meal or late-night snack. There is an added benefit that students can order and

pick up their food when convenient for them.”

The idea was proposed by Bon Appétit in collaboration with the Beloit College COVID-19 Task Force. Their goal was to provide a safe dining option for students who wanted it.

In terms of when students will be able to eat at Commons again, that decision is still up in the air. Cecil Youngblood was very optimistic saying, “The plan has only been to have commons closed for the first 2-3 weeks.  I can see us opening Commons dining very soon.”

When asked if there was a specific benchmark or statistic the task force is using to determine when Commons dining can reopen, Youngblood said, “It’s just a feel thing we get. We need to get booster information from students. Once we are in a rhythm, once we know people are testing, commons will reopen.”

The bottom line is nobody knows exactly when Commons dining will reopen because this pandemic is always changing and nothing is stagnant. There are positives and negatives stemming from this decision, but everyone needs to trust that the people in charge are doing everything they can for the health and safety of this campus.

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