Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Why Furman Should Invest in Outdoor Dining

If looking out for our neighbors and fellow students means spending more time outside, we should do it.
Owen Kowalewski
The DH is open, but that does not mean you should eat inside during the common hour — quite the opposite, in fact.

On Friday, a Furman Focused email announced that “we have contained on-campus disease prevalence, [and] we are going to lift and/or modify several restrictions.” Like most of you, I took this as good news, even as I was slightly confused as to why we remain in the Orange phase. With a low on-campus positivity rate after multiple tests, we can begin to interact with those beyond our cramped bubbles, confident that any one student’s likelihood of contracting COVID-19 is minimal so long as prudent precautions are taken.

Nevertheless, the threat of an outbreak hangs over our heads, even more now than it did in the fall. Case counts in Greenville are plateauing and perhaps beginning to drop, but they remain very high. And while there is a lot to be optimistic about — the accelerating rollout of multiple safe and effective vaccines, shorter quarantine and isolation recommendations, a more robust testing regime here on campus — the emergence of new, more transmissible variants of the virus is cause for concern. What can we do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while maximizing safe, in-person interactions on campus?

A great place to start would be to invest in outdoor dining. The DH is open, but that does not mean you should eat inside during the common hour — quite the opposite, in fact. Indoor activity involves greater risk than outdoor activity in general, but not all indoor activities are comparable. A CDC study found that respondents who had tested positive for COVID-19 were twice as likely to have eaten in restaurants compared to the control group, even though both groups went to gyms at about the same rate. The removal of masks for eating and drinking, coupled with airflow issues, makes transmission of the virus more likely, “even if social distancing measures … are implemented.” Simply put, eating with your mask off in the DH is the most dangerous on-campus activity currently allowed under the Paladin Promise — not because of dirty surfaces, but because of dirty air. Outdoor dining is not perfectly safe, but it is much safer. Embrace it. Put on your jacket, get your food to go, and avoid large crowds whenever possible. 

But this is not just another column asking you to buckle up and sacrifice personal preferences for the common good, though you should continue to do that. The administration should also make several adjustments to policy and infrastructure that would not only protect us from disease in the near future, but also improve the quality of life on campus for years to come. As much as students like to joke about The Furman Advantage every time the DH runs out of forks, Furman dining truly is top-notch. The pandemic has provided an opportunity for innovation that will change the landscape of American cities for the better for decades to come. Why can’t we say the same about our college campus? 

Outdoor seating should be expanded and made permanent, not only by the lake but also across campus. Infrastructure should be put in place that makes it as easy as possible to eat outside. Local food trucks should become regular sights on Milford Mall, and the university should enable students to use meal exchanges and food points with these outside vendors. Additional, more permanent trash and recycling bins will be required. In the long term, we could even consider adding outdoor dining to the upper level of the DH — perhaps some donors in the alumni network might be willing to fund such a project. 

Second, further steps should be taken to minimize indoor dining for the duration of the semester. Limits on the number of people in the DH should be enforced, especially during the common hour. Dining staff could use the GET app to keep better track of roughly how many people are in the room at a time (by measuring, say, the number of people who have swiped in during the last 20 minutes), and air-purifying technology could be used to clean facilities between meals. 

Speaking of the GET app, it should become a one-stop shop for everything related to Furman dining, including menus, hours and pre-orders. Importantly, students should be able to pre-order not only from Moe’s, but from all of the Pden restaurants, cutting down on wait times and crowds. 

Obviously, the fact that the pandemic limits our dining options at all is not ideal. But we live in a professionally-maintained park, replete with trails and benches. If looking out for our neighbors and fellow students means spending more time out in the park and less time inside the dining hall, we should do it. 

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