Further Guidance for Eating at Assigned Desks

Posted on November 9, 2020. Note that some information or advice may have changed since then.

Dear Graduate Students and Postdocs,

Late last week the Research and Graduate Studies Task Force sent a note to let you know that graduate students and postdocs are allowed to eat meals at their assigned desks. This allowance is restricted to assigned desks because these are private spaces and are not shared. In this follow-up, we would like to provide additional clarification and guidance, considering in particular, the recent video message from Fr. Jenkins and a letter that was circulated to the undergraduate student body by Vice Presidents Erin Hoffman Harding and Mike Seamon announcing that the dining centers on campus would be closed. 

We know that most graduate students don’t have private offices and have been eating outside. This is feasible if the weather is temperate. The intent of the allowance to eat at assigned desks is to provide a solution in anticipation of significantly colder weather approaching soon. With the unseasonably warm weather that is forecast for this week, we have bought some time. Please take advantage. If you can still eat outside, please do so. Heated tents are also available throughout the campus.

In terms of further guidance, the allowance for meals to be eaten at assigned desks requires that people eat alone or spaced more than 10 feet apart. The space where the meal is consumed should be well ventilated and masks removed only for as long as necessary (20-30 minutes max). This guidance will be posted in rooms containing multiple assigned desks. We hope that you appreciate the opportunity to eat under more convenient circumstances, but please avoid conditions that replicate communal dining, which has been shown to be a common means of transmission.   

A final note: We have worked very hard this semester, and the safety protocols established for research labs and spaces are working.  This allowance to eat at assigned desks falls within these protocols, provided that we all adhere to them. As a reminder, that means:  

  • Wearing masks
  • Physically distancing
  • Washing our hands frequently
  • Disinfecting work spaces

Keeping infections low requires both personal vigilance and everyone’s cooperation. If you observe behavior that does not comply with these protocols, please let building managers know or submit a comment to our reporting form here. Finally, please continue to reach out to us with suggestions and recommendations (we have received several already that we are working on) as we collaborate to meet needs while also keeping our labs, study, and workspaces safe for all.  


Bob Bernhard                                           Laura Carlson

Vice President for Research                    Associate Provost and Vice President                                                 

                                                                 Dean of the Graduate School