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Mask Policy Change at Eastern: One of the leaders of the EU mask choice campaign shares the campaign’s beliefs.

In early January, an email from the Office of the President stated that all persons at indoor facilities would be required to wear multi-layered masks at all of Eastern’s campuses. Some exceptions include students and faculty members working or in a room alone, and student-athletes practicing or competing according to NCAA instruction. I acknowledge that mask mandates have been implemented at a majority of college campuses across the United States to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, implementing a mandated policy to wear multi-layered face masks is not rational due to the previous policy Eastern had last semester, violation of individual choice, and a failure to consult the student body.

Cole Patti, I, and many others believe that Eastern administration has disenfranchised hundreds of students when making the mask mandate decision this spring. Eastern administration never sent out a survey to hear from the students directly about how they would be impacted by this initiative on their campus experience. Therefore, many members of the student body believe that executives at Eastern passed this initiative simply because other universities are doing so rather than analyzing if it is best for the Eastern community. It is dangerous to look at what the majority of institutions are doing regarding covid policy because every institution has different values and ethics. For example, Eastern University is a small private Christian university in Wayne and it should not look to state universities or other private institutions for guidance on policy. One of the biggest attractions of Eastern University is its selling point of catering to the concerns of its students because it is a small student body. Therefore, I am going to focus on a specific topic rather than a host of issues, and that is mask mandates. In mid-January, a group of eastern students launched the #eumaskchoice campaign to spread awareness to give students the choice of whether they would like to wear a mask or not. 

This policy proposal, making mask-wearing optional for students, is not a new idea because Eastern University had this policy in place last semester, fall 2021. Last semester, monthly coronavirus testing was done each month from September to December and there was no increase in case numbers. This revelation was excellent for the Eastern community because the campus was healthy, classes were held in-person, and every student was content in making mask-wearing decisions for themselves. Furthermore, there was little hostility toward others who made decisions for themselves, and the Eastern community interacted with each other cohesively. Also, there was no pushback or initiative to make masks mandatory last semester despite the Delta variant being more intense than the Omicron variant; which the South African doctor, Angelique Coetzee, claims patients have “extremely mild symptoms”. Also, the United Kingdom government’s study found that face coverings in schools did not have a statistically significant effect in reducing the spread of coronavirus. Students claim that it makes them feel safer, which Dr. Fauci admitted in an interview too, however, both students and instructors admit that communication is difficult with face coverings hence making for a poor learning experience. This is one of the biggest reasons the United Kingdom did away with mask mandates and coronavirus passports. 

The goal of the Eastern University Mask Choice campaign is to give back the individual right for students to choose to wear a face covering, like last semester. The biggest concern the Eastern University Mask Choice Leadership Team encountered during its outreach was the fear students and faculty have when asked to sign the petition. It is not normal to live in a free society without a willingness to have civil discussions about hot-button issues. On Eastern’s campus, I have seen students happily shutting down the opinions of others and feeling virtuous in doing so. For example, several students reported the online petiti

on to make mask-wearing optional, claiming that it contained “inappropriate content” when there is no evidence for this. Therefore, the website got taken down illegitimately, leaving a small portion of the student body celebrating while alienating the viewpoints of many students on the other side of the aisle. It is okay to have disagreements with each other, intense debate should be celebrated, but shutting out voices of opposing views is authoritarian and must be addressed by the Eastern administration. I spoke to a student about the mission of this campaign and the student expressed their hesitation because they were fearful of friends and peers gossiping behind their back. Eventually, the student signed the petition and expressed their appreciation for what we are trying to accomplish. At this moment, the leadership team, supporters and I knew this is much bigger than wearing a mask.

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