Students voice concerns over noncompliance with campus mask mandate

photo of students studying at Haas
Anthony Angel Pérez/Staff
Students expressed concerns over noncompliance with campus's mask mandate, as well as dissatisfaction with the lack of enforcement of protective measures such as checking daily symptom screeners and campus access badges.

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In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, UC Berkeley is operating under a mask mandate — evoking mixed opinions on its compliance.

The mask mandate, which was introduced in August according to the University Health Services website, requires everyone to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.

“In campus buildings, people have to have their masks on at all times, except if you’re alone in a room — and there are some exceptions around eating,” said Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert.

However, some students have expressed their frustration on Reddit regarding a noticeable lack of compliance. Campus freshman Ariana Leras was one of these people.

According to Leras, the majority of classes are compliant with the mandate. However, Leras said in larger classes instructors might have a harder time enforcing the mandate effectively. Leras noted in one of her classes, a student continuously did not wear a mask. 

“In one of my other lectures, a student made an impassioned plea for everyone to wear their masks correctly,” Leras said in an email. “They clarified that they had an immunocompromised family member at home … It helped put in perspective how important it was to wear the mask correctly and help everyone stay safe.”

Instructors may choose to add reminders of the mask mandate on class syllabi, said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email. They are also encouraged to have extra masks to hand out to students who need them.

Campus junior Alexa Zahlada also expressed some frustrations on Reddit regarding noncompliance with the mask mandate.

She said she has witnessed “many” violations of the mask mandate in study lounges.

“Even though some of the COVID-19 measures can feel like a nuisance … I’d take general inconvenience over contracting the virus and passing it onto others any day,” Zahlada said in an email.

According to Gilmore, campus’s Office of Environment, Health and Safety conducts regular spot-checks and has reported widespread compliance.

ASUC Senator Amy Chen said in an email she has observed most students and faculty in line with the mandate. However, Chen alleged other campus practices have not been effectively implemented, such as checking daily screeners and green campus access badges when people are on campus.

Like Chen, some are not satisfied with the degree to which protective measures have been set up on campus.

According to Weichert, UC Berkeley has lagged behind other UC campuses in this aspect. He added other schools have introduced randomized testing for asymptomatic students and implemented a quarantine regime at the beginning of the term.

“The year-and-a-half-long lockdown is not a reality I ever want to revert to, so I’m going to continue wearing my mask indoors and I hope that others will too,” Zahlada said in an email.

Contact Kelly Suth at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @kellyannesuth.

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