The social distancing rules at the John McIntyre Conference Centre (JMCC), the cafeteria at Pollock Halls, have been further tightened to prevent students eating together.
Outdoor seating has been removed, and there is no longer a take-away option. This means they must eat alone at a randomly allocated table, two metres away from any other diners.
Several changes were made to the JMCC dining experience when the accommodation opened this year. The on-site bar is closed and students must now bring their own cutlery with them. Hot food is dispensed by staff and cold food is individually packaged. An anonymous source living in Pollock Halls stated that ‘eating in the JMCC is a real nightmare: there are huge queues before going in… I finished my glass of water and when I got up to get more, I was shouted at by staff saying, ‘Sit down! You’re not allowed to get up!’ Literally, if you’re thirsty, you’ve got to bring five glasses with you.’
The source continued, ‘It’s made so many people really insecure, people have started skipping meals. I can’t imagine what it must be like for people with eating disorders- you can’t control your portion and there’s no going up again. Sitting there alone is super isolating and I have felt really self-conscious.’
First year student Florence Carr-Jones described the dining hall as ‘exam-style’ with ‘invigilators patrolling the space, hypocritically not always following the one-way system’. She added that ‘in some ways it’s quite kind of the JMCC, as the students who missed their exams this summer now can’t complain about not having a real A-level experience.’
Carr-Jones, 19, also described the restrictions in the accommodation buildings, saying, ‘You can only have two people in a room, you have to book the common room, and you’re only allowed up to six people in there at a time…security guards roam the halls in the evenings knocking on noisy doors, threatening fines and suspensions.’ She said ‘it’s definitely not your traditional Freshers [Week] – you’re drinking out on the Meadows, reverting to your classy 15 year old self [and] the nostalgia of getting wasted in a park. You’ll have a table where you can drink as a [group of] six watching other people drink as a six but never being able to interact, like in a weird reality TV show. Or you stay in, try the common room, get kicked out…mooch about in a pantry, get told to leave and so on.’
Along with the new regulations, students in university accommodation were also sent an email titled ‘URGENT WARNING: RISK OF SUSPENSION’, stating that a number of illegal gatherings had been reported at Pollock Halls and Kincaid’s Court, and that the police were required to intervene on several occasions when students refused staff’s requests to disperse. Students who break the rules can be suspended from the university.
Image credit: Florence Carr-Jones