As the number of students in isolation and quarantine housing at Binghamton University continues to decline, the College-in-the-Woods Dining Center is set to reopen.

On March 23, BU President Harvey Stenger announced during a Student Association (SA) Congress meeting that the College-in-the-Woods Dining Center will reopen starting on Monday, March 29. The dining hall was shut down on Feb. 26 to prepare and package meals for a rapidly growing amount of students in quarantine and isolation housing due to COVID-19.

When the dining center was shut down, student quarantine and isolation occupancy was at 71 percent, with 429 students residing in these designated locations during the first week of March. As of March 24, the occupancy rate of quarantine and isolation housing is at 4 percent. With this dramatic decrease in COVID-19 cases, dining halls will resume previous conditions by allowing 50 percent occupancy for in-person dining.

Stenger said he understood the frustration students had with the College-in-the-Woods Dining Center shutting down but painted a picture of the situation the University faced at the time.

“We were delivering 1,300 meals per day at the peak, and it required [BU] to use the [College-in-the-Woods Dining Center], which we knew was an inconvenience for many students,” Stenger said. “But it was the only way we were able to feed the students in isolation and quarantine.”

Deanne Ellison, director of Auxiliary Services, shared the same sentiment with Stenger, adding that no matter where students may be on campus, the need to provide food is top priority.

“Serving the needs of all students is the most important thing Dining Services does,” Ellison wrote in an email. “The ability of the campus to equitably balance the needs of students who can choose where they eat and those who are assigned to isolation and quarantine housing is very important — and is taken very seriously.”

Mikayla Roy, an undeclared freshman and College-in-the-Woods resident, said she felt discouraged to get meals since the other dining halls were farther away.

“I think the biggest challenge was just the walk,” Roy wrote in an email. “Sometimes my roommate and I didn’t get food simply because we didn’t feel like walking the distance. Personally, I understand the reason for closing, but I was upset that it was my living community’s dining hall.”

Robert Sallai, an undeclared freshman and College-in-the-Woods resident, was also displeased about closure of the dining hall and said he felt it was counterintuitive, as the University was trying to limit traffic and exposure among students.

“My initial reaction to the closing of [College-in-the-Woods Dining Center] was disappointment,” Sallei wrote in an email. “For one, the closing of [College-in-the-Woods Dining Center] forced an entire living community to commute to either [Appalachian Collegiate Center] or [Chenango-Champlain Collegiate Center (C4)], and on top of that, since Hinman Dining Hall is still closed, it puts the University at more risk considering that all of the living communities into two crammed dining halls.”

While Roy found the situation inconvenient, she said she is happy that some normalcy will be returning on campus.

“I’m personally really excited,” Roy wrote. “As much as I love [Appalachian Collegiate Center], I’m looking forward to the shorter walk for food. My friends and I are also in love with the cookies, so we’re ready to stock up on those!”