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Masks and the Majority: The Choice to Cover Up

February 7, 2022

Tensions are high among the opinions surrounding the mask mandate that came into effect on January 6 earlier this year. Students are attempting to settle back into the routine of going to classes in person, along with the natural human trait of being social beings. From my experiences both in and out of class, I have observed that many students have similar views regarding the mandatory masks. My management professor told us at the beginning of this semester that, in all of his years of teaching, he had never walked into his classroom to begin the lecture, welcomed by the sound of silence.

Nobody is talking to one another about the weekend or other classes. We have evolved to keep our heads down and buried in social media. The masks have created an invisible barrier between ourselves and those around us. We can no longer see the emotions of those encompassing us. We no longer hear engagement in class besides a few muffled responses. We are strangers to those who sit beside us every day.

As for the effect of COVID on education, students seem to be using “sickness” to their advantage. Too many times I have heard peers say that they were able to receive extensions on assignments and acceptance for lack of attendance. Simply reach out to a professor and tell them that you were “feeling under the weather,” and boom, you can now continue to sleep in. We have become numb to our responsibilities as a student because of the lack of consequence. We are becoming soft. We are becoming antisocial. With a lack of real face to face connection, I dare say that we are becoming less human. As of right now, the mandate is effective for everywhere indoors.

The only place where it is actually being enforced is in classrooms. Mask below your nose? Slap on the wrist. I understand that it may not be difficult to wear a mask, but what contributes to the discomfort is not just the feeling of the mask, but the feeling of being disconnected. Outside of class however, it seems that many have made their decision. With 90 percent of students on campus being vaccinated (safe-campus.umn), I feel as if we have the right to a choice. If you feel safer not going out, you have the choice to stay in.

If you feel safer by covering your face, then by all means, feel free. However, along with the majority of students, I am vaccinated and feel that I have done my part. A common theme in life is that we will never be able to please everybody, but with a very large majority of campus being vaccinated I believe that we should have the freedom to choose.

One of the only things that I believe outweighs the freedom of choice is the freedom to a clean environment. With sustainability becoming an increasingly important buzzword, I am surprised at the scarcity of news about the amount of waste that masks generate. According to MIT researcher Anne Tafton, the COVID-19 pandemic produces 7,200 tons of medical waste per day, with a large majority being from disposable masks. ScienceDaily.com estimates that the amount of waste from disposable masks is comparable to that of plastic water bottles. Globally over three million masks are thrown away every minute. I have contributed to this waste, and I guarantee that everyone on our campus has as well. The best way to condemn this amount of consumption is to end it.

In my opinion, the mask mandate has gone on too long. It is time to let the people choose what they want. For those who wish to keep wearing masks, continue to do so and I won’t judge you for it. If you feel that it will keep you safe then that is your belief. I wish to see my classmates’ faces and get back to the full experience of going to school. I don’t want to be a stranger to someone who is sitting right beside me. Using a stuffy nose as a justification to skip class is not a valid excuse, and yet professors will allow it. It is a lack of motivation caused by the lack of interrelationships and connection we experience every day as a student. We may never be able to please everyone, but why not start with the majority?

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