Updated: Sep 30
Whether you are on campus taking in person classes, completely online, or somewhere in between, there is a strong chance your situation is far from ideal. There are most definitely pros and cons of each mode of learning, and multiple ideas went into making learning the best it can be this semester during such uncertain times. However, as a student taking three out of seven courses in person, I have quickly learned of flaws in the system impacting my ability to learn that have yet to be worked out.
There is no doubt we all need to eat throughout the day. Our bodies simply need energy to get through the day in order to perform and feel our best. We all tend to fall into an eating routine that fits our schedules after the first few weeks of settling into the new semester. With all the added protocols and new norms, many of my fellow peers taking in person classes with me are struggling to find time to refuel.
At Rhode Island College, there is always a ten minute minimum break between every class on campus to allow students passing time, as well as a few minutes to eat. Having nine hours of back to back classes with only ten minutes in between isn’t easy for anyone, but at least we have those 10 minutes to have a snack. Right?
In the ten minutes between classes you could walk through any building and see students gathered in the lounge areas, chatting and having a quick snack break to help refresh before starting their next class. When I enter Alex and Ani Hall this semester, the lounges are empty rooms with nothing but windows. The college has removed tables and chairs to eliminate gatherings of students in accordance with state guidelines, but where can we eat throughout the day now?
The answer I have been given so far this semester is to step outside for a few minutes, make sure no one is within six feet of me and have a quick snack. Sure, a few extra steps to exit the building isn’t much of a burden, but what happens when it's below freezing outside, or raining?
It might look good on paper to simply force the small number of students who are attending classes on campus to eat their snacks outside. However, I have learned quickly that it is far from ideal and surely won’t last much longer as the weather gets colder. Some students are comfortable with sneaking their lunches while they are in classrooms, but is that really what students should be doing? Especially considering all of the safety measures currently in promotion during the pandemic.
I have spent two days a week, for the past three weeks, functioning off a few handfuls of Goldfish and a sip or two of water in between my classes. I do this as I simply don’t have time to exit the building and get to my next class promptly. RIC has installed a new instant coffee vending machine and a new snack machine in the middle of the empty Alex and Ani lounge. I am all for filling the empty space and giving students access to food and beverages. Although, where are we supposed to enjoy them at this time? We can’t simply grab a cup of coffee and a granola bar from the machines and sit down in the lounge. Instead we must walk outside to avoid taking our masks off inside the building. As busy college students, there is a very slim chance we will have time for that. Instead students will be encouraged to remove their masks indoors and consume food and beverages, which then defeats the purpose of the safety protocols in place.
Surely there are many important issues that need to be resolved on campus this semester, and giving students a place to eat or more time to do so is among the less urgent situations. But, there is no reason students should have to either skip class to fuel their bodies, or unsafely remove their masks in the building just to have a bite to eat. Maybe we need more time to take a break, or maybe we just need a designated area where it is acceptable to remove masks and refuel. As students working hard to succeed in a pandemic, our brains and bodies deserve proper treatment.