In disappointing year, all-university dinner survives

While there won't be tables littering Fountain Mall this November, students can still pick up their Thanksgiving Dinners at select dining halls across campus. Lariat File Photo

Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

A full schedule is planned for the annual all-university Thanksgiving dinner this year for one of the last big events to close out the in-person semester.

Wednesday from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m., on-campus students will be able to obtain their traditional Thanksgiving meal staples, grab-and-go style, out of Penland, Memorial, or East Village dining halls, while a drive-thru service will be available for off-campus students to pick up their meal at either Penland or East Village and enjoy at home.

“If you’re an on-campus student, then you will grab-and-go from one of the three dining halls and then go find a place to hang out and be on campus, enjoying the festivities,” Matt Burchett, director of student activities said.

Some of the festivities include an official turkey pardoning, similar to years’ past turkey pardonings, Burchett said, inspired by the Presidential tradition of sparing a turkey a Thanksgiving meal fate. On-campus students can watch the turkey pardoning outside the SUB at 5:30 p.m.

Atlanta junior Lauren Gassel said the event this year is even more special to her.

“As an out of state student, Thanksgiving is really important to me because it is one of the few times I can go home to see my family,” Gassel said. “This year, I’m not going home because finals are so close to Thanksgiving break, but I’m looking forward to the dinner at school because I get to spend it with my friends this year, which I don’t normally do.”

Students are encouraged to spread out around campus to enjoy their meal, from the benches, swings, and Fountain Mall. Burchett said they are trying their best to limit students’ exposure to large groups for an extended period of time before leaving for break shortly.

“We’re just trying to really pay attention to the amount of spread in Waco and in the county — not do anything that would really impact the end of the semester as students return home for Thanksgiving,” he said. “We recognize that, although we will be closing out this semester in six days or so, as far as on-campus instruction, we care so deeply about our students families and those who they are returning home, we don’t want to do anything that would unnecessarily expose them to the virus in advance of traveling back.”

A taste of campus Christmas cheer will not be lost before students leave though, Burchett said. Plans to decorate the tree in the SUB and the 37.5 foot tree in Burleson Quadrangle start Tuesday.

Burchett said the hope is to capture the spirit of the broader experience of gathering in a really beautiful community at Baylor.

“Frankly, we’ve done a very good job of managing COVID and our academic load and our student experiences overall. This is just an expression of gratitude for wrapping up this really challenging season and expressing gratitude to our students,” he said.

In light of managing COVID-19, Burchett said university events have not been as widely broadcasted as usual because approvals are not granted until about 7-10 days out from the event date.

“The events are planned and ready,” Burchett said. “We want to make sure that because COVID-19 is so unpredictable, it’s just hard to know where we’re going to be in three weeks or two weeks, so we really do try to wait for the very moment in time in which we feel really confident, we’re going to put our students, faculty and staff in the best possible position to be healthy and safe.”