A recent reimplementation of the “no water bottles” policy in Dining Hall West (DHW) is intended to address the issues of cross-contamination and the use of the Dining Hall as a to-go facility.
Students might bring their water bottles into DHW when getting a meal right after class, wanting to refill their bottles with cold drinks to cool off from the Texas heat. However, to comply with university social distancing guidelines, Dining Services has replaced the convenience of allowing reusable water bottles in DHW with practices that are intended to keep students and faculty safe. These practices include the installation of a cubby station at the entrance where diners are required to leave their water bottles.
Pam Stanley, director of Food and Retail Services, said, “the pricing structure and facility is not set up to be a grab and go, so water bottles were never really supposed to be in the Dining Hall. We did notice this semester a little bit of an uptick in people bringing the bottles in, so we did set up some cubbies.”
The “no water bottles” policy has been in place since at least 2018, but the recent stricter enforcement of this practice is a result of the rapid spread of COVID-19.
“We wanted to stress this because we were noticing that the water bottles that were being brought in were used to fill up at the fountain, and people were touching the bottle part where your mouth goes on the bottle – they were touching it to the actual fountain machine. So, we wanted to follow the University’s request to mitigate any cross-contamination everywhere we can,” Stanley said.
Dining Services has posted several signs in DHW to make sure that students follow this water bottle policy. They have also started to discourage the practice of using the same cup to refill drinks at the fountains in light of the pandemic.
Carolyn Rutter, director of Dining Services, said, “we’ve seen crazy things like somebody even washing their hands in the beverage station. So, it’s really just for students and faculty, staff, for everybody’s safety that we put these practices in place.”
According to Dining Services, students have been compliant with the practice so far. Everyone seems to understand the need for safer dining options, especially with the conclusion of de-densification, where students and faculty will be exposed to more people at once.
Nicholas Norris, resident district manager of Chartwells Dining Services (the dining services company that UTD partners with), reiterated the University’s focus on health and safety.
“This is all about safety and sanitation, and we just wanted to take another step to try to enhance what we were already doing,” Norris said. “Again, this practice has been in place for a while. But we felt like we needed to take another step given the environment we are in right now to enhance that practice, and that’s why we ended up having all the students leave their water bottles at the front.”