As part of the college’s COVID-19 guidelines, Eckerd closed residential lounges due to the threat of COVID-19 spreading within them, leaving students with low-tier meal plans with less food options.
Associate Director of Housing William Otto said the decision to close the lounges was not taken lightly. It was a joint decision between Housing, Resident Life and Campus Safety based on guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Otto said the main reason for the lounges needing to be closed is because the kitchen, couches, and television remotes are all “high-touch areas,” which would put a fairly large number of students at risk.
Students who waived the meal plan entirely are allowed limited access to the lounges (and in turn the kitchens) by going through the Office of Accessibility. As for the students with a low-tier meal plan they are not allowed access.
“I was basically told to just deal with it,” sophomore Rebecca Simard said.
Before COVID-19 began, many students took advantage of the lounges’ non-intimidating atmosphere to study rather than the Armacost Library. However, students on either a low-tier meal plan or even students who waived the meal plan altogether rely heavily on the kitchen sections of the lounges.
“I based my meal plan on knowing I had access to a kitchen, and now I basically live off Pop-tarts in my dorm room,” Simard said.
To some students, the lounge kitchens are a big factor when deciding which meal plan to choose, so many students were surprised Eckerd did not sent out an email to students announcing the closures.
Senior Nathan Lang lives in Omega and has access to a kitchen, so he said decision does not affect him. Some of his friends that live in other dorms, however, are on lower meal plans and cannot get three meals a day from the cafeterias.
“I had no clue that the lounges were closed until well after we got here and moved in,” Liang said.
While the dorm lounges are closed, other public spaces on campus like the fitness center are open with limited capacity.
“I feel like if they require masks, a limit on how many people they have, along with cleaning it should be fine,” Mackenzie Smith, a first-year, said. “It is the same thing as the gyms.”
Otto explained the two are simply not the same.
“The gym is fully monitored at all times,” Otto said. “There are nine lounges on campus, that would mean we would need nine full-time cleaning teams. We do not have enough staff for that, it is not practical.”
Otto said right now the college is discussing if and when the lounge rooms will open again.