Seth Novak ’25 is majoring in government and American studies. He plays on the club lacrosse team and is a member of the Sigma Pi fraternity, while also being the president of the Randolph Complex Community Council. Email Seth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.
The College of William and Mary has slowly dropped mask mandates on campus over the past few months, and I’m all for it. The College has remained on the cautious side with more rules regarding masking and vaccinations than many Virginia schools, which is something I appreciate. While students remain in Williamsburg, we live in a bubble where vaccinated students pose less of a COVID-19 concern than if we were back home with our families. I’m tired of this pandemic, and I’m glad we’re getting it under control, but I still want to be safe. I believe that masks in classrooms are the only realistic way to stay safe on campus.
Thinking about it logically, the only way to actually achieve the purpose of having masks on in the dining halls would be for us to eat outside. We walk in with our masks on for five minutes, grab our food, sit down and then take them off for at least twenty minutes. Eating our food in the dining hall negates the entire purpose of wearing the mask when not eating. Most likely, the College won’t make us eat outside of the dining halls again, so it never made sense to wear masks there in the first place.
On the other hand, dorms are more of a gray area. I believe that since I live, eat and sleep there, it doesn’t make sense to wear a mask in the lounge area. My floor only contains 21 people, so it is somewhat of an outlier, but that makes me more comfortable not wearing my mask there because I am constantly in contact with the same people. An issue I’ve encountered, though, is people unconsciously peer pressuring others to take their masks off. In dorms and dining halls, it is a personal choice whether or not the student wants to wear a mask, and we, as peers, should not be trying to sway another student to be less safe or uncomfortable.
Academic buildings are one of the few places where there is no real reason to have our masks off, and it is no more than a small hindrance to have it on for the fifty-minute to hour-and-twenty-minute classes. Going to class is one of the few places where, on a regular basis, I am coming into contact with people I don’t know, and it’s the bare minimum to keep a mask on.
We have to take into account that COVID-19 is not gone, nor will it ever be. Right now we’re in a valley between waves and it’s only a matter of time until the next surge comes. If we don’t want to run into the same problems we’ve had for the last two years, it would be smart to leave our masks on.
I’m almost certain that the College will lift the mask mandate for classrooms sometime soon after spring break, but I for one will leave mine on. Having a conversation with hallmates and classmates about how to handle wearing or not wearing a mask can alleviate any animosity that may form and will allow everyone to get a better understanding of why wearing our masks is so important.
I’m not the first person to say this, but COVID-19 is no more than a regular illness for the majority of the healthy population. But we’re not being safe for ourselves. We’re being safe for those few friends who could die if they got COVID-19. We have to be safe for everyone else.