With the return of students on campus, professors and student workers have been tasked with enforcing the mask mandate in campus buildings and classrooms. For some, the new responsibility brings a comforting sense of control to their position, while others have said they’ve felt uncomfortable confronting peers on the topic.
Sandra Sullivan-Dunbar, a theology professor at Loyola, warned her students of her strict rules surrounding mask-wearing prior to the first day of classes.
“I do not want to be in a classroom with somebody whose mask is not on their face and over their nose because I’m worried about myself but I’m also worried about all the students sitting close by,” Sullivan-Dunbar said.
The delta variant — one of the most prominent COVID-19 variants in circulation right now — is commonly spread through coughing or sneezing from someone who is within six feet of another, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mask-wearing that covers the nose and mouth has become the most common way to prevent the spread of the virus, The Phoenix reported.
While getting tested is no longer mandatory for those who are vaccinated, Loyola requires students and faculty to wear masks when on campus, The Phoenix reported. Despite her firm views of mask-wearing, Sullivan-Dunbar said she’s pleased to be back in-person teaching students face to face.
“It’s time to be back,” she said. “I’m so grateful that Loyola has required masks and vaccinations. I sense that the university worked really hard for it to be as safe as it could be.”
Communication professor Lee Hood shared similar views.
“I haven’t had any problems in class with anybody questioning the mask mandate or trying to defy the mask mandate,” Hood said. “I have to give the students credit.”
While some professors may feel grateful for the university and students’ efforts to protect the community, some student workers said they feel like there’s more to be done. Angelica Juliano, a student worker and nursing major, noted the stressful nature of checking the health app of every student who enters the Damen Student Center.
“As a student worker, it’s a little more stressful for us because people don’t listen sometimes,” Juliano, 21, said. “We’re not trying to be annoying about it, it’s just for the wellbeing of everyone that we have to enforce all of these rules.”
Juliano said she wishes the university had a different system that connected the health app to the student ID as well as scanners by the front doors. This way, students would be able to scan their ID, confirming they have completed all mandatory requirements rather than displaying the app on their smartphones.
University spokesperson Anna Shymanski Zach said this wouldn’t be reasonable.
“Students, faculty, and staff are asked to show their compliance status via Loyola Health to enter the Damen Student Center because it is a high-traffic area, and using the card swipe method would allow for a significant number of people to piggyback into the building unchecked,” Shymanski Zach said.
Juliano also said she believes health apps synced to IDs would help solve the issues of students who don’t have smartphones, those who only show screenshots or have issues loading the webpage.
“When you’re showing screenshots they’re not accurate because they’re not showing us weekly changes,” Juliano told The Phoenix. “They could have just been from your first week of school, then [if] you’ve got COVID and we don’t know that and you could just be walking around.”
Shepherd Yancey, a co-worker of Juliano’s, agreed it’s hard to enforce COVID-19 guidelines as a student.
“It’s tough because people are people, students are students, you can’t control everyone,” Yancey, 23, said. “But if the university was a bit more proactive about being stringent covering the entire face with masks I think it would be advantageous for everyone, including myself.”
While Yancey’s job description includes enforcing the mask mandate, he said additional means of enforcement would be helpful to him at work.
“I would prefer that Loyola do a bit more, whatever that looks like for the university, to enforce the proper mask-wearing whether that be through signs or personnel other than those working,” Yancey said.
While signs reminding community members to wear masks can be spotted on entrances throughout campus, the university has not employed additional staff to regulate mask-wearing in campus buildings.
“Loyola believes compliance with all COVID-19 health and safety protocols, including our mask policy, is everyone’s responsibility,” Shymanski Zach said. “Loyola administration continues to keep an open dialogue going with students, faculty, and staff who may have concerns as we navigate our full return to campus.”
The university encourages all students and faculty to report masking violations through the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict for student violations, and through the appropriate administrator’s office for faculty violations.
While the university aims to utilize community-based enforcement, professors like Sullivan-Dunbar hope to foster trust within the classroom.
“It’s better to build the classroom community to where we all know that this is what’s expected and that this is how we take care of each other,” Sullivan-Dunbar said.