By Meghan Brink and Emma Moynihan
With students starting to return to campus for another semester of studying during the pandemic, here’s what to expect for moving in, housing, eating, and staying safe.
Move-in: Two Guest Helpers Permitted
Students can move back to on-campus housing until Jan. 31. Students can sign up for an arrival date and time on MyUAlbany under the housing application.
Ten days before arrival, students must submit a negative COVID test and are expected to self-quarantine at least seven days before arriving on campus. Students who have tested positive on or after Nov. 1 must submit their original positive test results. Students can submit their test results under the COVID-19 checklist on MyUAlbany.
Students are allowed two guests to help with the move-in. Yellow storage bins will be available to help students move back. Masks are required at all times.
Housing: COVID-19 Policies to be Enforced, Weekly Testing
Traditional quad housing and university apartments are available for students this spring semester. The capacity will be at approximately 50%.
Director of Residential Life Carol Perrin said 3,700 undergraduate students are anticipated to live on campus this spring.
Common areas and study rooms in residence halls will be open. They will operate at reduced capacity and students will be expected to wear masks and stay six feet apart when using the areas.
Res Life staff staff enforce the rules and have even made adjustments to fix challenges they endured during the fall.
“Generally, the biggest challenges across housing have been ensuring compliance with required testing and compliance with the COVID-19 guest policy,” Perrin said. Students are not allowed to have non-residential guests in their dorm at any time. They are only allowed one guest per occupant; guests must also live on-campus. Any guest policy violations this semester will result in the student being removed from on-campus housing.
According to Perrin, all students living on campus and faculty and staff authorized to travel to campus must participate in mandatory weekly pooled testing. A new system has been developed to guarantee students are completing the pooled testing on time and any student who refuses to participate in testing will be removed from housing permanently.
Students and faculty who have received the vaccine or have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies are still mandated to participate in pooled testing.
The schedule for test submission dates can be found on UAlbany’s COVID dashboard online as well as a schedule for where and when students can pick up their test kits.
Upon arrival for move-in appointments students must immediately submit a saliva sample for pooled testing, according to the Spring 2021 move-in guide sent to all students.
Dining: Damien’s Closed, New Meal Deals
Residential dining on State and Indian Quad will remain closed for the spring semester, but students who plan to return to UAlbany can expect to see some changes in the Campus Center.
The dining halls, which closed in September 2020 due to issues with COVID-19 safety, lack of use, and student complaints, might open later in the semester if the on-campus student population increases, which does not seem likely, according to Executive Director of University Auxiliary Services Stephen Pearse
Students can eat at the Campus Center, which allows for more space for social distancing and uses the GET Food app where students can preorder their meals online for pickup, two safety advantages that dining halls could not accommodate, said Pearse.
The traditional freshman unlimited meal plan will no longer be offered due to the closure of the dining halls, according to MO Schifley, Senior Director of UAS Administration. Instead, freshmen will have the choice between two tiers of the myFlex plan that provides discount dollars that can be used to purchase meals at the various retail dining options at the Campus Center.
Upper-level students who live on campus or commute have the option between five tiers of the myFlex plan or three tiers of the myChoice plan, which offer varying amounts of discount dollars.
One of the many changes in the Campus Center to be anticipated this spring is that Damien’s, a UAlbany favorite for chicken wings, will be closed.
“It didn’t get as much use this fall,” said Pearse. “It’s very labor intensive, and we decided it would be better to put those resources into other locations.”
Some menu options from Damien’s will still be able to be purchased from other locations at the Campus Center. According to Senior Manager of Dining and Contracted Service Operations Roxanne Welch, Damien’s style chicken tenders can be purchased from Fountain Grill and chicken wings will be served on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at the new dining venue Purple Plate.
Pearse said that Purple Plate was created in effort to satisfy student demands for more variety and less expensive meals.
“What we wanted to do was to develop a concept where you could get breakfast, lunch, and dinner under $11,” said Pearse.
Purple Plate, located at Star Ginger, will be serving lunch and dinner options that rotate daily at a 50% discount with discount dollars. Additionally, Fountain Grill Breakfast will be offering a Purple Plate value breakfast meal for a reduced price, according to Welch.
The Campus Center Starbucks location is eliminating in-person ordering and instead will be taking all orders through the GET Food app in an attempt to reduce crowding, said Pearse.
Due to the colder weather, students can no longer make use of outdoor seating to enjoy their meals while remaining socially distant. Auxiliary services is looking to work with Campus Center management to expand indoor seating to create more space for students to enjoy their meals safely, said Welch.
“We did talk about adding a couple tables and chairs into the Campus Center East,” said Welch.
Once warmer weather returns, the outdoor tents provided in the fall semester may not be available for student use.
“It was extremely expensive for the amount of use that it got,” said Pearse. “I don’t know if we got its bang for its buck.”
For those with dietary restrictions, Simple Servings allergen-free meals will be served in a grab-and-go style in 518 Market at a 30% discount price that has been matched to the 50% discount price offered in the fall semester. A daily vegetarian option will also be served at Purple Plate.
Students requiring Kosher meals can sign up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and will receive weekly emails every Thursday with menu options. Meals can then be picked up fresh at 518 Market where additional frozen meals will also be available, according to Schiefly.
Welch urged students with concerns, compliments, or dietary restrictions they find hard to accommodate with the retail dining options available at the Campus Center this spring to reach out to UAlbany campus dietitian Donna Duffy at email@example.com.