Campus mask mandate lift sparks debate among students, faculty

photo os students wearing masks
Eran Kohen Behar/Staff
While some believe the lift is premature and could cause COVID-19 cases to rise on campus, others feel the absence of masks will make students more comfortable in the classroom environment.

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With the indoor mask mandate ending on campus Monday, students and faculty have varying opinions regarding the lift.

While some individuals feel the absence of masks will make students more comfortable in the classroom environment, others believe the lift is premature and could cause COVID-19 cases to rise on campus.

“To me, it feels rushed and unnecessary,” said Barbara Barnes, campus gender and women’s studies continuing lecturer. “It’s further excluding people who are already unable to come to campus and be in groups of people.” 

Some individuals, including campus senior Geri Garcia, are concerned about putting the health of immunocompromised family members at risk when she visits home.

She noted many of her friends who live full-time with immunocompromised individuals are also worried about their roommates or family contracting COVID-19 if people are not wearing masks indoors.

“If their actions and their choices lead to somebody in their household getting COVID-19, it just isn’t fair,” Garcia said.

ASUC pre-health senator Muz Ahmad brought up similar concerns on immunocompromised students being required to attend on-campus classes as the mask mandate lifts.

Ahmad proposed campus provide students who are further at risk of contracting COVID-19 a remote learning option for their well-being and safety.

However, campus law lecturer Alan Pomerantz said he believed the absence of masks will be beneficial in the classroom environment.

“There’s a reason why people wear masks when they rob a bank,” Pomerantz said. “It’s so that you can’t recognize them, so I have a harder time with each individual student when they have a mask on.”

Pomerantz said he believes the absence of masks will give him the ability to know his students on a personal level and the capacity to determine through facial expressions whether students understand the material he is teaching.

Although Pomerantz will not be wearing a mask after the lift while teaching, he said wearing a mask is a personal decision for his students, and they should practice whatever makes them feel most comfortable.

Other professors have seen the negative impacts of COVID-19 on their students’ health and are very hesitant to end mask-wearing in their classrooms so soon.

“Since the beginning of the semester, in my 50 student class on Documentary Cinema, at least 1-2 students per week have been testing positive for COVID-19,” said campus German professor Deniz Göktürk in an email. “I will continue to wear a mask to protect myself and others, and I have asked my students to do the same.”

Students such as campus freshman Elias Benchekroun have mixed feelings about the mandate ending and returning to a “sense of normalcy.”

Benchekroun said he will continue to wear a mask indoors and believes many of his friends will do the same.

“Given the benefits that masks bring, we have nothing to lose by continuing to wear them,” Benchekroun said. “I don’t know if there’s any perfect time, but I can’t say I feel 100% about it right now.”

Contact Zoe Kessler at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @ZoeKessler14.