Tenzin Jorden, Staff Photographer

In a shift coinciding with the start of the semester and the return of the majority of Yale College students, Yale Hospitality allowed for the reopening of all 14 residential college dining halls Friday for grab and go service, ahead of the transition to in-person dining on Monday. 

Beginning on Jan. 14, the University employed a gradual reopening plan, initiated with the resumption of Ezra Stiles and Morse colleges’ hospitality services. On Jan. 16, Silliman, Branford and Saybrook dining halls also reopened for take-out meals. Up until Jan. 28, a week into the spring semester, many college dining halls reopened, with only Berkeley, Jonathan Edwards, Pierson and Timothy Dwight’s kitchens remaining shuttered. 

As students cheer Monday’s return to indoor dining, albeit with caveats, those who were left trudging through last week’s icy temperatures to pick up their meals at other colleges expressed relief at the change in policy.  

Zoe Berg, Photo Editor

“The cafeteria staff are always a great energy, and it’s really nice to have that back,” Solenne Jackson ’25 said. “Not only is it the company of your friends and the random people that you see in your home dining hall that you wouldn’t see in other places, but also to see the staff and have that home community feeling again.”

Jackson lives in Berkeley College and was unable to use her residential college dining hall until Friday. Looking back on the last two weeks, she noted that the closure was “a bit of an inconvenience,” as it limited her ability to grab food quickly from a dining hall near to her dorm.

Yale students whose dining halls have remained open over the past weeks also heralded the shift. Sanjana Mittal ’25, who is in Silliman College, noted the difficulties of sharing her dining hall with spillover students from those colleges which until Friday had remained unopened.  At popular meal times, lines spilled onto the front staircase of Byers Hall and even into the building’s lobby.

“It was highly inconvenient,” Mittal said. “I once had to join a lecture on my phone because I was still stuck in the lunch line.”  

Mittal also noted that the backup blocked passages to other Silliman facilities and discouraged impatient students from eating dining hall food. She also raised concerns about the indoor crowding generated by the dining hall overflow, noting that such crowding could raise the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Students have also lamented grab-and-go meals as a whole. Jackson pointed to the plastic waste generated by takeout dining as a drawback, and Mittal noted that the quality of the food seemed to be negatively impacted.

“The quality of the food, although it was the same food, it felt like we couldn’t appreciate it as much, because the steam makes things soggy, and by the time you get to your room to eat it it’s not a great situation a lot of the time,” Mittal said. “It’s not conducive to an appetizing dining experience, through no fault of Yale dining, of course.”

All residential college dining halls are now open for in-person dining, although grab-and-go containers are still offered for students who want to eat outside the dining halls. Commons, which is currently closed, is slated to resume lunch service on Feb. 7, and The Bow Wow will continue with standard service hours, as it has since Jan. 24.  

Yale Hospitality staff displaced by the halted reopening were also happy to be back in the dining halls again. Frank Jackson, a 15-year veteran of the hospitality staff who is affectionately referred to as “Uncle Frank” by student diners, smiled as he waved to Piersonites in the newly-reopened dining hall on Monday.

(Tenzin Jorden, Staff Photographer)

“I love being back in Pierson,” Frank Jackson beamed. “It’s always good to be back home…[and] to see familiar faces.”  

Before Pierson’s reopening, Frank Jackson was stationed in the neighboring Davenport dining hall, which had accommodated many stranded Pierson diners.

Frank Jackson remarked that he feels more comfortable in the Pierson kitchen, where he has worked for the past eight years and whose facilities he is used to.  

“Everything goes a little smoother for everyone,” he explained. “Everyone relaxes a little bit.”

The pace in Pierson felt more relaxed on Monday; lines were practically non-existent, food was plentiful and dining hall staff chatted with one another during lulls in student traffic unseen in many dining halls over the past two weeks.

Even as Commons remains closed and other in-person activities remain restricted, Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd wrote in a college-wide email on Jan. 28 that “beyond the weekend…the pace of reinstating activities and reopening spaces is expected to move quickly.”

Students less enthusiastic about the expansion of dining hall options will be able to enjoy this week’s Food Truck Fest, a week-long event providing free food around campus to Yalies fortunate enough to snag a spot in advance.

Miranda Wollen is the University Editor for the News; she also writes very silly pieces for the WKND section. She previous covered Faculty and Academics, and she is a junior in Silliman College double-majoring in English and Classics.