While an uncovered face might feel like a relief to some, fear still looms over many as students return to campus from their spring break vacations without a mask in sight.
The Ithaca College administration ultimately lifted the mask requirement March 4, only a week prior to the campus closure for spring break. Although many students have opted to continue wearing their masks, seeing the bottom half of my classmates’ faces for the first time all semester has been a jarring experience. What a bizarre sight it is seeing my peers’ faces in full.
Because of this oddly-timed decision, we have yet to see any true consequences of the lift in advisory. However, understanding the difference between proactive and reactive decisions in response to fluctuating case counts nationwide is imperative when it comes to keeping our campus safe.
Proactivity and reactivity are the same in terms of administration as they are in everyday student life. We are being proactive when we attend office hours for clarification on an assignment. We are being reactive when we ask for extra credit because the assignment was done wrong.
In terms of administration, we are being proactive when we continue to enforce mask wearing policies, despite lower case counts, to completely stop the spread of COVID-19. We are being reactive when we have to reinforce the mandate because cases began to skyrocket without it.
Not only is being proactive about prevention, but it is also about growth. By continuing to wear a high-quality mask, I feel as though I am protecting not only myself, but my peers, professors and teammates from the ongoing dangers that COVID-19 continues to pose. Although the thought of an unmasked face sounds more refreshing than ever, that reality will never truly be possible until significant methods of protection against the virus, like the vaccine, are more welcomed and efficiently distributed worldwide. Wearing a mask should not be a personal choice, it should be a personal responsibility.
As we gain experience living with the virus that has plagued the world for the past two years, there will always be those who remain complacent about its impacts, resulting in reckless and poorly thought out decisions. Because of this reactive lift in advisory, the burden is left to professors to pick up the slack that administration has disregarded in the name of “normalcy.” Now more than ever, the Ithaca College community needs to take accountability as individuals and make mask-wearing an essential part of our routine.
Administrative decisions play an incredibly important role in the lives of all students and staff. The poorly-timed decision to no longer require a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status completely disregards the lives of the immunocompromised and those with loved ones who are unable to get vaccinated.
A college campus should be a place where all students and staff are able to feel safe and comfortable. Instead, many will return to campus feeling at risk. Lifting the campus–wide mask mandate is a reckless, reactive decision made in haste, and will soon prove to have done more harm than good for the mental and physical health of our community.