This semester, 251 North, a University of Maryland dining hall in the Denton Community, has closed its doors on Fridays and Saturdays — a change from the fall semester, when 251 North was open seven days a week.
The dining hall, which mainly caters to students living in Denton, Easton, Elkton and Oakland halls, offered carryout seven days a week in the fall. But now, students have to go elsewhere to grab a meal on Fridays and Saturdays — whether that means visiting the nearby North Campus Dining Hall, eating out at a local restaurant, ordering delivery or making their own meals.
“I don’t understand why one dining hall is not open the same hours as the other ones, because there are people that live on that side of campus that would like to go there,” said Stacy Feldmar Rothman, a parent of a freshman at this university.
In past years, the dining hall operated with more limited hours. For a long time, the dining hall was only open for dinner, said Colleen Wright-Riva, Dining Services director. But in the fall, Dining Services opened 251 North seven days a week due to safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic, she said.
“We were having concerns about people wearing masks and people following the rules and the guidelines, so it was really a safety net,” Wright-Riva said. “We opened both [North Campus dining halls] just as a precaution.”
Although Dining Services knew it could serve the reduced North Campus population with only one dining hall, she said, the department prioritized maintaining student and staff safety.
Over the course of the fall semester, Dining Services found it did not have trouble enforcing the coronavirus safety protocols in the campus dining halls, Wright-Riva said. So, the department determined that the North Campus Dining Hall — which is about a three-minute walk away from 251 North — would be enough to safely serve the North Campus community on Fridays and Saturdays. And, it could reduce potential financial impacts, she said.
Freshman Dennis Erickson lives in Bel Air Hall and spends most of his free time at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, so he often goes to the nearby 251 North to grab food. The math and music composition major finds it “weird” the dining hall is closed Fridays and Saturdays this semester.
But the North Campus Dining Hall serves more students Monday through Thursday than what the North Campus Dining Hall and 251 North serve combined on Fridays and Saturdays, Wright-Riva explained. She attributes this to students choosing to get more sleep and be more social on the weekends.
“The numbers still bear it out, year after year,” she said. “Fridays and Saturdays have been our slowest days in the week.”
Feldmar Rothman said she is frustrated with the university’s lack of communication about limiting the dining hall’s hours this semester.
Her daughter, a hearing and speech sciences major living in Denton Hall, participated in spring recruitment for Greek life last weekend. But due to the time commitment of the events, she didn’t have time to walk to the North Campus Dining Hall and had to order delivery, Feldmar Rothman added.
“If they’re not having enough business, maybe they need to look to why,” she said. “Because my daughter complains about the food all the time.”