On Friday, April 1, President Sarah Bolton sent an email to the campus community, with the subject line reading: “COVID Protocol Update: Mask policies.” The email announced the updated COVID-19 protocols on campus, focusing specifically on the new masking policies. The email explained that “masks are optional in all spaces on campus” with a few exceptions, including the Longbrake Wellness Center, studios, laboratories at the discretion of the instructors and private student residential spaces, with consensus from all occupants. The email noted that students should still carry a mask with them when moving about campus in case it is needed.
Bolton had previously reached out for input from the campus community on the College’s COVID-19 protocols. In an email sent out on March 4, Bolton had asked students to fill out a campus poll regarding their preferences and concerns about easing masking requirements. Bolton announced the results of this poll in an email sent out over spring break, stating “the large majority of Wooster students, faculty and staff who responded to the survey support loosening our current mask mandates.” This conclusion, along with updated CDC guidelines and local COVID-19 statistics, informed the decision to begin loosening the mask mandate.
But the conclusion presented in the email, that the large majority of campus supports the easing of mask mandates, seems to oversimplify the feelings of the student body. One student, Carly McWilliams ’22 said, “The emails … made it seem like an overwhelming amount of students supported this decision, but … I know several people who responded negatively.” She then pointed to her own concerns about the new policies, explaining, “My biggest concern is safety since my roommate is immunocompromised.”
Some students who are more comfortable with the transition have reservations as well. “On one hand, I’m happy that the mask policies are not too enforced,” says Vincent Noonan ’22. “But on the other hand, it does raise a level of concern, because we’re still in a pandemic and it allows people to be reckless.”
McWilliams raised concerns about events this spring, pointing to her experience at the College during COVID-19. “All of us seniors have missed out on a lot of Wooster experiences,” she said, “so the idea of coming this far only to remove the mask mandate right before I.S. Symposium and graduation makes me nervous.”
For most of the campus community, the main priority is safety, and reservations about the changes to the masking policy reflect a worry for campus and community health. “We want to move on but we don’t know when,” said Rian Mokodompit ’22. “I think, largely, it’s welcomed, but welcomed with a bit of anxiety.” Currently, some members of the campus community and various departments have continued to consult their students and colleagues regarding easing policies in certain spaces.
If you would like to receive a door sign that requests people to put on their masks before entering your space, please contact your resident assistant or email Residence Life at firstname.lastname@example.org.