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Students prepare for housing and dining changes as in-person activity resumes

With guests allowed back in dorms and meal plan prices set to increase, the reality of campus living is changing for students as they return from a virtual, socially distanced year. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

As an incoming sophomore, psychology major Alanna Brophy’s first year living on campus was filled with social distancing, eating in her dorm and having to tell her friends they couldn’t come to her room.

This fall, however, she is preparing for all that to change. 

“I’m glad things are getting back to normal, but still a little cautious,” she said. “In my opinion, the biggest change is going to be actually meeting new people in the dorms and seeing entire faces instead of just eyes.” 

The university announced in May that full in-person operations will be resuming on campus June 28, the start of the Summer B semester. Along with students being able to head to full-capacity classrooms and packed stadiums for athletic events, the resumption will also initiate a change to living and dining on campus, with guests being allowed back in dorms and increases in meal plan pricing. 

With the university returning to traditional functions, mitigation efforts like social distancing will be unenforced in housing as well, according to Ana Hernandez, the assistant vice president of Housing and Residential Education

“Our community spaces will be fully open without any of the physical distancing, and this includes our multipurpose spaces, our study lounges and active lounges, kitchens, the Greek Village houses and more,” Hernandez said.

Alongside this change in residential life, Hernandez said residence halls will be adhering to the original guest policy, allowing students to bring guests into their building who do not reside there. 

USF Dining Services is making some changes too, including increasing the meal plan prices for the fall, though the new prices are not confirmed yet, according to Jessica Cicalese, marketing director for USF Dining Services. She declined to comment on why the prices are increasing. 

The open access plan will be increasing from $2,050 to $2,120 while the “Any 15” will increase from $1,950 to $2,020. The Bull Block 175 will go from $1,765 to $1,800. 

Bull Block 60 and 32 will change from $855 to $880 and $585 to $600 respectively, according to a USF Dining Services customer service representative. 

Brophy purchased a dining plan last year, but will not this year because of the prices and limited options. 

“I will not be purchasing a dining plan,” she said. “It is way too much food for one person and the price is obscene. During my first year, I had the Any 15 meal plan since that was the lowest one I was able to get at the time, and it was far too much in both food quantity and price.” 

In lieu of a dining plan, Brophy said she will be making her own meals, getting takeout and paying out of pocket at the dining halls if she ever needs something quick. 

Incoming freshman majoring in information studies Brenna Gugaria said she will most likely purchase a meal plan for her first semester as it is the most practical option for her. 

“My dad thinks I should get the best meal plan in case I get lazy,” Gugaria said. “As much as I hate to admit it, he may be right, so the meal plan is probably my best bet.”

Dining halls will also be fully open to students with the same cleaning protocols used over the year, according to Cicalese.

“Our mission is to continue to deliver exceptional and safe experiences through dining spaces,” Cicalese said. “With that, all safety and sanitization processes will remain in place.”

Despite prevention measures being lifted, some students are reluctant to believe that living and dining on campus is the safest option. 

Claire Hendrix, a senior majoring in integrated public relations and advertising, is concerned about returning to live on campus this fall as moving back during the pandemic is not her first choice. 

“For me, it was honestly a last resort to live on campus again. I haven’t been on campus since it initially closed down in spring 2020, so I’m nervous to see how everything plays out this fall,” Hendrix said. 

Although some students hold reservations, others are eager to live and eat on campus again. 

Hernandez said she feels students are excited to return back to campus after a year of isolation and disconnection from the USF community, even if they plan on taking their classes online. 

“What we’ve seen is that students recognize that living on campus is still a great place to be, even though they may choose different modalities as to how it is that they’re participating in the classroom, whether in person or virtually. So we want to make sure that we continue to support that,” Hernandez said.

Kahrynn Barrow, an incoming freshman majoring in architecture, said she is excited to live on campus as she hopes to make new friends and find a sense of community at USF after a year of isolation. 

“My main thoughts about on-campus living have been about finding friends and groups to take part in,” she said. “I hope to get out there in the world a bit more and I feel like living on campus is the best way to do it.” 

For some like Caroline Odell, a junior marketing major, returning to campus is a return to productivity, as she did not feel successful when she was living at home with her family. 

“I choose to live on campus for the community,” she said. “I live an hour away, so technically I could commute, but I find that I focus better when I’m in a constant educational setting, which is provided when I’m living at USF.” 

Taking into account the events of this past academic year, Hernandez said there is no way to foresee the future of life on campus with certainty. However, she’s hopeful a “positive change” will come in the fall. 

“I trust that our community is going to do everything it can to return to the robust, exciting, interactive and inclusive campus community that we have known to grow and love about USF,” Hernandez said.

Additional reporting by Audra Nikolajski