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College designates alternate eating spaces in response to lack of masking in Spencer Grill

The Spencer Grill is designated as a “study space” for students, where masks are required at all times. Photo by Isabel Torrence.

Although Grinnell College’s official policy is that masks can only be removed while eating in the Dining Hall, students often eat maskless in the Spencer Grill and at other tables in the Joe Rosenfield Center (JRC) without repercussion, a problem for which no perfect solution has yet been found.

To discourage students from eating in the Spencer Grill and other JRC communal spaces, the College has designated certain rooms as “lunch spaces” in which students can eat unmasked indoors. These rooms in the JRC are 202, 203, 225 and 226. Students are already using these lunch spaces to eat lunch instead of in the Dining Hall.

“I think the only place I’ve seen someone actually get reprimanded for not wearing a mask was in the HSSC,” said Rachel Werner `25. “Other than that, I’ve never seen anybody, regardless of if they’re eating or not, get in trouble for masks.”

Werner thinks the rationale behind the policy that students can eat in the Dining Hall but not the Spencer Grill is illogical.

“I think maybe one place that should be allowing people to eat in would be Spencer Grill as well, just because that is a food place. Other places, I understand to try to help stop the spread,” said Werner.

But the College maintains that food bought in the Spencer Grill is supposed to be eaten elsewhere.

“In the Grill, the food is grab-and-go and should be taken outside, back to your residence hall room, or to another approved dining area in the JRC. Elsewhere on campus, anyone can take their masks off momentarily to take a sip or a bite of food,” wrote Heather Cox, director of emergency management and risk mitigation in an email to the S&B.

No employee at the Grill is specifically assigned to implement mask requirements, and Cox wrote that the measures are to be upheld and enforced by the community at large.

“All campus community members, including students, are empowered to remind others to wear their masks indoors. No single person or department is designated to enforce the policies but rather it is a collective effort as part of living and learning in community,” Cox wrote.

Roxanna Longobardi `25, a student worker in the Spencer Grill, noted that students frequently eat maskless without repercussion.

Longobardi said there had been no explicit instruction to remind students that they can’t eat in the Spencer Grill. “I just don’t say anything because I haven’t been told to say anything, so it’s not part of my job, I guess,” she said.

As the weather gets colder, students will be unable to eat outside, and Longobardi thinks even more students will start eating unmasked inside.

“I like it. I just hang out here with my friends before classes because right after lunch we have classes. It’s so much easier,” said Deborah Afeni `25.

The College is still looking for more solutions to provide students with safe places to eat when students don’t have the choice to eat outside.

“The Activity Level Group and the Operations Team continue to assess public health guidance as it relates to indoor dining, and are working to identify locations and activities where students can enjoy eating together. More information will be coming after fall break in preparation for cooler weather,” wrote Cox.

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Maddi Shinall
Maddi Shinall, Visuals Editor
Maddi is a fourth-year political science major from Iowa City, Iowa. She is likely either listening to Taylor Swift or drinking an iced chai (with oat milk) from the Grill at the moment, possibly both.
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