With the return of students on campus in the middle of a pandemic, Blackburn had to make decisions about the best way to keep the students safe in dorms. One decision was to close the kitchens in the residence halls.
Closing the kitchens was a preventive measure the school took to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Granted, only two residence halls (Jewell and Stoddard) have full sized kitchens. The other four just have microwaves, one for every floor, sitting in the parlor. However, closing the two kitchens does cause some inconveniences for students.
Some students relied on the communal fridge to store their food. But, since that is no longer an option, students either had to buy a mini fridge or go without one. Students are no longer able to use ovens or stoves, so the groceries bought must have an option to cook in the microwave. Students also need to consider storage because students can only have a maximum fridge of 3.2 cubic feet in their dorm rooms.
Another concern is how to go about washing dishes. Students are having to wash their dishes in the bathroom sinks. Since the bathrooms already have one sink blocked off for social distancing, bathrooms can get pretty crowded with only two sinks. Not to mention the fact that washing dishes in a bathroom sink is pretty unsanitary; it seems counterproductive to clean dirty dishes in a sink that people wash their hands in to help prevent COVID.
Closing the kitchens is understandable, but I feel as if it wasn’t really necessary. I understand that the kitchens were closed to better monitor contact tracing and to keep students from touching the same dishes, faucet handles and cabinets. However, in reality, there isn’t really a difference between students sharing microwaves in the parlor and students sharing them in the kitchens. The same concept goes for the bathrooms; multiple students use the same toilets, the same sinks and the same showers, but they only get sanitized once a day by Campus Services.
There are other options to help prevent the spread of COVID while also keeping the kitchens open, like sanitizing the areas as students enter and exit. We already have to do that in classrooms, so why can’t we do it in the kitchens? Another thing could be taking out the shared dishes that the resident halls provide. So, if students need to use a pan, they bring their own. It has always been a problem in the past of residents not washing the shared dishes, so what is really being lost? Resident Directors could also create some sort of schedule for the kitchen to be open and used. So, instead of having it open all the time, have it open only from six in the morning to 11 at night; or have a type of schedule that only certain floors can use it during certain times; or just have it to where there is only a limited amount of students allowed in the kitchen, like every other building on campus. Jewell and Stoddard should reopen the kitchens with guidelines. Afterall, we are already familiar with guidelines and restrictions, and quite frankly, not a whole lot of students congregate in the kitchens anyways, so it’s not doing a whole lot for students to keep them closed.