As students finish their first-week post-Fall break, a key question remains on campus: What is the mask policy? There is no definitive answer. As we have seen this semester alone, the College is willing to loosen and restrict the policy based on the surrounding Montgomery County data and input from students and faculty alike.
The survey sent out last week allowed for students and faculty to give their take on the mask policy and other questions gauging the reasons and effect of the mask policy on their experience at Wabash. For students, this was an opportunity to have the medium to directly communicate with the individuals making the final call on the matter. With it being a contentious issue for students throughout campus over the last two academic years, the survey saw nearly 300 students provide input.
According to Dr. Ann Taylor, Senior Associate Dean of the College, neighboring institutions like Earlham College, Kenyon University, and Denison University require full maskwearing in all buildings on campus.
As of the time this piece is published, masking in all classrooms and public facilities is required. With many students traveling off-campus, along with faculty constantly facing unknown exposure with unvaccinated children at their homes, the required masking fell in line with what we know and can predict.
Before the break, 100 COVID- 19 tests had been conducted per week, with zero positive tests over the last five weeks leading up to October 17th. Factoring in that 99% of faculty is vaccinated and 95% of students, these are favorable conditions for more loose restrictions on masking heading into the tail stretch of the semester.
According to the survey, many of the faculty members responded positively when asked how the implementation of the maskingoptional policy started in the classrooms, with only a handful of faculty saying otherwise. In general, the majority of faculty allowed for students to have the option to wear a mask if that made them more comfortable but did enforce it. While a little below half of the faculty required masking in all of their classes or masking in particular classes that they instructed.
The survey suggested students, for the most part, understand the reasoning behind why masking might be required and why it might not be required in classrooms. As one might expect, a small number of students disagree with wearing masks, but, overall, the College is heading into favorable conditions moving forward.