Cross-campus dining restrictions to continue as students question reasoning

A girl, wiping her mouth, smiles at the camera as she finishes a meal with friends.
Scripps students sit on Elm Tree Lawn and Bowling Green for dinner, while COVID protocols forbid cross-campus dining. (Corina Silverstein • The Student Life)

Walking through Frary, McConnell or Collins Dining Hall, you’ll find no shortage of wistful conversations among returning students about cross-campus dining — normally a staple of on-campus life at the 5Cs. But despite students’ concerns and swirling rumors, administrators are holding fast to this semester’s single-school model.

Harvey Mudd College will continue barring students from the other Claremont Colleges from entering the Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons this fall due to the nature of the dining hall as a heavily trafficked area, spokesperson Judy Augsburger confirmed in an email to TSL. HMC originally communicated the decision in an Aug. 5 community update.

“There are no plans to revise the policy before the end of the semester, given the nature of how COVID-19 spreads and the contagiousness of the Delta variant,” Augsburger said, adding that the decision was made jointly by leadership from all of the 5Cs.

Concerns for dining hall staff as well as staffing challenges prompted this decision for Pitzer College, spokesperson Kimberly Shiner said in an email. 

Students largely understand the lack of cross-campus dining as a consequence of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but have mixed feelings about the policy. While some say they understand and appreciate the way the 5Cs are prioritizing community health, many are simultaneously frustrated by inconsistencies and what they see as unnecessary measures.

“I understand that it is a way to restrict and track the spread of COVID between the different campus communities,” said Mica Barrett SC ’23. “But, there’s takeout at Scripps and I think that that should be available to do across the colleges.”

The limited menu at Scripps, especially for students like Barrett who are gluten-free and dairy-free, contributes heavily to a desire for other options. 

“I can usually only eat one or two things at the dining hall and the fact that they are so repetitive is frustrating. It makes me honestly eat less,” Barrett said.

Danilo Estigarribia PZ ’25 finds the decision to ban 5C dining disappointing, but he respects it. 

“You understand what the situation is — they are trying to do what’s best for our community,” Estigarribia said. 

He added that he understands why cross-registration is allowed despite the cross-campus dining ban, saying he sees the difference in terms of masking. 

“You are required to wear a mask when you’re inside but when you’re eating you need to take off your mask, so it’s different,” he said. 

However, Barrett noted that the lack of cross-campus dining makes things hard for those taking courses at other colleges.

“The option to eat closer to the bulk of my classes, which aren’t on campus, would benefit me healthwise, foodwise and also just socially,” Barrett said.

While students have the option to bring take-out food from their home campuses to the other 5Cs, this strategy presents obstacles. Estigarribia has a few friends from the other 5Cs but finds it hard to eat with them in a central, outdoor location. Instead, they usually go off campus, often to a restaurant. 

Unfortunately, “it gets expensive,” Estigarribia said.

For Barrett, these challenges simply result in them seeing their non-Scripps friends less often than they’re used to, since eating together is a convenient way to socialize. 

“And that’s kind of taken away from us,” Barrett said. 

Despite the policies, students can — and will continue to — find ways around the system.

“I have given my ID to people from other colleges to use because we wanted to eat together,” Barrett said.

And Barrett isn’t the only one — other students have even resorted to using Facebook groups for food or ID swaps. 

“Message me if you’re the kind of person who would want Frary/Frank food and go to not Pomona, let’s meal box trade … please, I only like the cucumbers there 🙏 😩,” one post said on the 7C For Sale/For Free Facebook group. A comment on the post read “5 bucks for a Mudd meal!”

While 5C students can buy food and drinks from some cafes across campuses, others are solely for students who attend that particular school. Jay’s Place fits the latter category, making its late-night sustenance inaccessible for non-Mudd students, although the Mudd Café still serves all of the 5Cs.

“The Café has the facilities to serve our wider 5C community and offer a wide variety of food options at times of need to a larger number of people,” Augsburger explained.

Pomona College, Scripps College and Claremont McKenna College didn’t respond to requests for comment.

However, signs outside the Coop Fountain and Café 47 show that only Pomona community members are allowed inside at the moment. 

To Barrett, the emphasis on preventing the spread of COVID-19 by regulating dining seems unnecessary.

“I think that it is really silly,” they said. “In a lot of classes, even at other campuses, we are sitting in confined spaces and oftentimes people are breaking COVID rules, meeting up unmasked and drinking or eating in class. Honestly, it kind of defeats the purpose of having rules like this.”

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