Dining Hall Closing Times Leave Students Frustrated and Hungry

By Sandra Quinn

As of Fall 2022, the University of Tampa has removed most COVID-19 related restrictions on campus, however, one restriction remains that has left students frustrated and hungry. 

Prior to the global pandemic, the University’s dining hall, Ultimate Dining, was open throughout the day, from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. As a safety precaution in response to COVID-19, Ultimate Dining has been closed for sanitation purposes from 2:30-4:30 p.m. every day, ever since 2020.

During the midst of the pandemic, I understood the importance of implementing a sanitation break in the dining hall. Although I found it inconvenient as it interfered with the time I preferred to eat lunch, I respected the University’s decision to sanitize one of the only areas in which students were not required to wear masks. 

As the pandemic has settled and restrictions regarding masks and self-reported health checks have been lifted, the sanitation break has become more of an inconvenience and less understandable. 

One student who chose to remain anonymous has multiple dietary restrictions. This student prefers to eat at Ultimate Dining because of the ability to “choose from a variety of foods and avoid products that are harmful.” If he wants to eat on campus during the hours of 2:30-4:30 p.m., he is forced to decide between putting himself at risk or fighting hunger until the sanitation break is over.

Another student said she is frustrated by the fact that this break is still in effect. Like many students, she has class from 12-1:50 p.m. and 4-5:50 p.m. This means that between the hours of 12-6 p.m. she, realistically, only has approximately 30 minutes to get in and out of the dining hall. 

“After my first class I’m starving but I just don’t have enough time to get out of class, go to the dining hall, and eat before they close,” she said.  She added that Ultimate Dining is the only food option she enjoys, so she eats a snack that barely holds her over until 6 p.m. 

Students that are paying thousands of dollars for an on-campus meal plan should not dread spending their days hungry. Being that other COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, the Ultimate Dining sanitation break seems unnecessary and unfair to students who, in some cases, feel unsafe eating at other on-campus establishments.

The cleaning and upkeep of a dining facility is crucial, but closing Ultimate Dining for two hours during the day is not the most beneficial way of doing so. An extensive cleaning should be performed at the end of the day, allowing the dining hall to return to the normal hours of operation with no break. 

It is crucial for the University to make these changes and find a better system. Doing so will optimize students’ meal plans, and provide health and wellness benefits. Students will also be more satisfied with the University, which should be one of the school’s main priorities.  

UT must consider the ramifications of taking away a main dining option in the middle of day, and how it is negatively affecting the student body. Not only are students hungry during this time, but for some, their health is at risk and the continuation of the break from 2:30-4:30 p.m. is unacceptable.

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