Upper Commons reopens for seated breakfast

More decisions to come on in-person dining


Jimmy Sadowski, Herald Reporter

Upper Commons reopened yesterday for breakfast only after campus officials assessed the university’s ability to provide dine-in seating late last week. Students were allowed to sit in pods of four or less to enjoy their meals or they could take food out from the dining hall.

James Gubata, General Manager of Dining at RWU, said he and Vice President of Student Life John King anticipate Upper Commons will be able to reopen for all three meals today as long as final approvals go through. A confirmation announcement is set to be made at 3:15 p.m. on WQRI 88.3 FM.

Sophomore Joey Bucci said he liked his first in-person breakfast experience in the dining hall this semester.

“So far it has been good,” Bucci said. “I think we could definitely have breakfast in-person because I feel like there are a lot of people that don’t eat breakfast, so the numbers are pretty low. Right now, there are only 10 people here and everyone is spaced out.”

“I think Upper Commons could reopen for lunch and dinner because a lot of people just get their meals to go, so I think the numbers of people dining in for lunch and dinner would be low too,” Bucci said.

Junior Katherine Plotas was happy to be back in Upper Commons.

“I definitely feel like it’s good to be back because it’s like a sense of normal,” Plotas said.

In a Feb. 9 all-student email, King cited a decreasing positivity rate as a reason why Upper Commons can begin a phased reopening. Gubata explained why the semester began without the option to dine in.

“We started without dine-in service because it is the safest way to provide food to students,” Gubata said. “It’s not the greatest in terms of community dining, but at least we can make sure the students are getting decent meals, beautiful meals.”

“We’re still buying local food,” Gubata said. “We’re still buying high quality ingredients.”

Gubata and King have been making dining decisions based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Rhode Island Department of Health. With plexiglass barriers on tabletops in the dining hall and a reduced dining capacity from a maximum of six at a table to four, the university is practicing precautions to make in-person dining a safe experience.

“I’m just glad they took their time to make sure it was safe when they reopened,” said junior Breanna Bailey.

If the positivity rate continues decreasing and “things look like they are moving in the right direction,” Gubata said Upper Commons may go back to six people at a table.

The curbside pick-up option at Lower Commons and the Law School Bistro being open from 5 to 7 p.m. have helped to reduce population density coming through Upper Commons, according to Gubata.

“We have now taken 750 meals per day out of Upper Commons and [are] serving those meals out of the Lower Commons,” Gubata said. “Approximately 75 to 100 students per day are going to the Law School Taqueria instead of Upper Commons.”

“I think dining has been alright,” said sophomore Isabella Cirignano. “I like the take-out aspect, but the food can get repetitive especially when they don’t serve what they say on the email.”

In-person dining at Baypoint reopened for lunch on Feb. 5.

Gubata said Baypoint was able to reopen before Upper Commons because there is a much smaller group of students that eat there together and the majority of the time only students who live in Baypoint eat there. Students from other residence halls are not typically dining there.

Gubata said take-out has not been the most environmentally friendly option.

“Take-out service goes against a lot of our sustainability values in dining because of all the extra paper and plastic,” Gubata said. “In recent years, we have made such great progress in reducing our disposables. We don’t like having to do this, but the safety of the students is the first priority.”

Gubata said RWU dining is welcome to feedback from students during the semester.

“Dining is open to any feedback from students,” Gubata said. “If you see something, say something. If you have a good idea, we really want to listen and hear those ideas. We want to be everything the students need us and want us to be.”