By The Berea Torch
After some delay, on March 23, 2022, Berea College President Lyle Roelofs reported that the current mask mandate, which has been in place for almost a year, has been officially revised.
At the start of the Spring 2021 Semester, wearing masks was mandated on the entirety of the campus, including the outdoors. The mask mandate was fully lifted in May 2021, shortly after the end of the Spring 2021 semester, but was reinstated right before the beginning of the Fall 2021 Semester.
Now though, barring another virulent variant of COVID-19, it seems that the mask mandate will not be coming back anytime soon. We wish all mask-free Berea students to enjoy the rest of their semester!
While technically there is no more campus-wide mask mandate, masks still have to be worn during classes, indoor labor, and other daily college activities. There was a lot of confusion within the wording of the indoor masking policy revision document sent by President Roelofs. Multiple students either asked for clarification from the President himself or online through Facebook chat forums. Lola Bauer, a student in Berea College, provided an infographic to the masking policy for the library, provided below.
One of the clarifications from President Roelofs was posted on the Bereans Gone Wild: Cult Edition! Facebook group and stated, “Walking in hallways, etc., and being in alumni to go to eat, you would not need to wear a mask.” Presumably, this applies, along with the Hutchin Library clarification, to buildings like Woods-Penn, the Appalachian Center, Seabury Center, etc., unless, of course, you are working or in class.
This brings us to the most perplexing part of the revised mask policy and something a lot of students have been discussing. Say someone works in the library. They get to walk around the library without a mask if they are not clocked in but the moment they are clocked into their labor position, they have to wear the mask. Then after they clock out, they can take the mask off and walk around the library again. Weird, right?
To me (Lily Barnette), it is a little frustrating. In the email by President Roelofs, he states, “After those discussions, and the interests of the faculty and staff have been registered, further adjustments are likely.” Of course, faculty and staff opinion is important, but to not include the student body’s interests as well with a quick poll is frustrating. The student-to-faculty ratio is 10:1 with there being around 139 full-time faculty and around 1,600 students. The staff number I could not find, but logically, it does not exceed 1,600+ students. I wish the administration would also consider the interests of the students.
With that in mind, The Berea Torch staff asked through Bereans Gone Wild: Cult Edition! and discussed with peers in-person regarding their opinions on the newly revised mask policy. It seems that the student body is frustrated/disappointed regarding how it complicates being in your labor position as opposed to not. A few students were optimistic, though, and their opinions are:
Isaiah Cook: “I can see where the college administration may be coming from if I simply put myself in their shoes. Even when the county is green and the CDC stops zoning due to COVID cases, there’s still a chance that one person could cause a problem for others with how many strands there are of it… To my eyes, this may just be a transitioning phase so we can slowly move into not having any masks, so if there’s a case when we slowly start unraveling that policy, then we can bring it back fairly quickly with no real whiplash to it.”
Ezra Lanoue: “Remembering the days when you could get in trouble for not wearing your mask outside away from other people, this feels promising to me. I’m really happy to be able to cook or make coffee in the kitchen without having to wear a mask; it makes the residence halls way more like home. I understand people’s frustration and I would have liked for more and clearer change too, but I think we can all stand to consider what a momentous policy shift this is compared to the past two years and how more changes are likely on the way.”
According to President Roelofs’ email, it seems we won’t see another big change until after April 7th, 2022, so keep an eye out!
UPDATE: Masks are no longer required in labor positions unless the labor supervisor specifically requires them.