Campus mask mandates present safety, noncompliance claims

photo of a girl putting on a mask
Sunny Shen/Senior Staff
Despite campus's COVID-19 mask mandates, students expressed safety concerns in response to members of the campus community failing to properly wear masks while indoors.

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Mask mandates on campus have served as a defense against COVID-19, but some students have found that not everyone is following them. 

Campus’s online COVID-19 guidelines dictate that face coverings are required indoors — even for people with an approved medical or religious exemption — and optional outdoors. Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said according to University Health Services officials, campus’s indoor mask mandate, combined with its high vaccination rate, means that the campus has greater protection against COVID-19 than the Bay Area.

“Our understanding is that students have been doing a wonderful job complying and wearing masks in class,” Gilmore said in an email. “There, of course, could be individual incidents that may have occurred somewhere on campus, given that there are more than 40,000 enrolled students.” 

One student, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said they generally had positive experiences with students wearing masks, but claimed that one of their professors did not follow the campus mask mandate.

According to the source, the professor wore a visor instead of a mask on the first day of class and took it off halfway through the class. The professor then incorrectly wore their mask at the second and third classes, not covering their nose and pulling it down halfway through the lectures.

“The professor was only about three feet away from the closest student,” the source said. “It was in a cramped classroom that didn’t have good ventilation, so it was kind of scary to be honest.”

The source said the professor’s noncompliance with the mask mandate was one of the reasons they decided to drop the class. They also noted an experience in another class, where students attended while masked to avoid contracting COVID-19, despite there being a positive case in the class.

Campus senior Rebecca Alturk described how her professors actively wear masks and remind others to do so. However, she claimed that in one of her classes, there are two to three students who consistently wear their masks improperly and eat during class.

“It’s been a bit frustrating as I go home to my elderly mom and my unvaccinated 8 year old,” Alturk said in an email. “I don’t say anything to these specific students, but I just feel a bit frustrated having to sit in a crowded and windowless class for two hours.”

In cases where individuals are not complying with the mask mandate, Gilmore suggests first offering them a mask. Noncompliant students can then be reported through the Center for Student Conduct while faculty can be reported through the department chair, department dean or Whistleblower hotline. Gilmore added that some individuals who have a disability-related exemption are not necessarily out of compliance.

Contact Cindy Liu at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @_CindyLiu_.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a source wished to remain anonymous due to the size of their program. In fact, they wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation.