Photo by Alin Luna on Unsplash.
A week or so ago, I went to pick up a book at the school store and the gentleman working at the book section didn’t have a mask on because he was surrounded by a huge plexiglass. While I personally don’t care whether or not he wears a mask, it was quite annoying knowing that he could get away with not wearing a mask, but I couldn’t. Why isn’t this employee required to wear a mask at the school store, but students get hounded when they walk into Sykes Student Union without a mask? How does the school expect us to follow a mask mandate when some University staff are apparently exempt? What happened to “lead-by-example?”
Let’s be real: everyone is sick of COVID-19. People are tired of the masks, social distancing and all the added stress that comes with a global pandemic. There is not a single person that wants this pandemic to continue. At this point, we know that those who are more likely to get severe reactions from COVID-19 are the elderly and chronically ill. In addition, the production of many vaccines has helped “band-aid” the situation — even though that “band-aid” is starting to come off as more breakthrough cases arise.
Here in Chester County, most places don’t require masks. A few days ago, I went to the police station to vote, planning on being forced to wear a mask. However, not one person at the polls had one on. Put simply, it is safe to say that Chester County has been over the whole “mask phase” for quite a few months now.
On campus, however, there are “Masks Required” signs everywhere. At the beginning of the semester, all students signed a contract that states, “When required by public health orders and/or University policy, [students will] properly wear a face mask that covers the nose and mouth as directed.” Those are the exact words from the West Chester University “Student Community Agreement.” West Chester University — like many other colleges — is taking COVID-19 very seriously. However, we’ve been back on-campus for over two months now, and many students are starting to phase COVID-19 out of their lives.
Every day, I see students going out with their masks below their nose, or even sometimes, on their chin. After visiting friends in the dorms, I saw that there were many students who only put on their masks to get past the front desk. However, we have gotten to the point where many staff members on campus are tired of enforcing the rules. I see people walking around with their masks on improperly all the time, and staff members don’t say a word to them — especially at Sykes or Lawrence Dining Hall. One thing that doesn’t make sense is that staff members usually don’t care if somebody has their mask below their nose or mouth, yet when a student doesn’t have one on at all, they freak out. Masks aren’t effective if they are below your nose, yet staff members still let this slide? It just doesn’t make sense to me. What happened to enforcing the rules? It is very clear that even though the mask rules are the same as day one, the community mask standard has dropped for many.
With this masking standard dropping among students, administration had to do something about it. Last week, all students got an email from the Vice President of Student Affairs, Zebulun Davenport. In his email, he said that, “Your diligence [in regards to the mask policy] shows in our low COVID numbers, and you can see our daily numbers through the COVID-19 Dashboard.”
In my view, this was a passively aggressive warning for students, who are starting to defy mask mandates on campus. However, I personally think it is laughable to say that the reason for the low COVID-19 numbers is the mask mandate. As I have demonstrated, most students at WCU don’t wear their masks properly. Tons of people — including freshmen who live on campus — go out to huge parties or bars on the weekends, and share drinks, vapes, and air. Why is the school mandating masks when students are just going to hang out off-campus or in their dorms maskless? Do they really think that COVID-19 numbers are down because of some mask mandate?
The school’s administration can send students as many emails as they want, but the truth is that WCU students are finding ways around the mask mandate — they have been since day one. Even with this, we are still in the “green phase” in terms of COVID-19 transmission.
To me, it just doesn’t make sense why a school would impose a mask mandate that they clearly can’t, and oftentimes don’t, enforce it. It doesn’t make sense why we have to mask up even though COVID-19 numbers are relatively low on-campus. Those that don’t like masks will probably never like masks, and some “mandate” won’t change their opinions either, so why force it? Is the administration mandating masks to help us, or is it just so they have good PR?
Ryan Levinson is a third-year Communications major with a minor in Political Science. RL923198@wcupa.edu