Boston College has ignored requests for a mask mandate made by professors at the institution. Not surprisingly, professors are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of action taken by the school to protect them. More surprisingly, students are astounded at the mere mention of masking in the classroom. An intense discourse is rippling through the school, aggressively divided by a small piece of fabric.
One thing everyone can agree on is that last year was not the year students, faculty, or staff wanted. With masking, testing, guest policies, and a lack of good food, everyone had one thing to commiserate on: Boston College was not doing well. This year, people had more hope. We didn’t quite know what to expect, but with a whopping 99.3% vaccination rate among students, we all came to school with higher expectations and bags packed full of game day gear. The school year started off well with football games returning, classes being in-person, and parties returning (Walsh is once again lit up like a Christmas tree with LED lights every Friday and Saturday night). Everyone seemed to be happy, excited by the return of some semblance of normalcy after a year of struggle and Zoom screens.
Although everyone was happy, people started to get sick. So far this semester, there have been 99 positive cases in undergrads and 118 positive cases total. This is close to the number of cases at this time last year, even when we were all unvaccinated. Teachers have been noticing absences in classes due to COVID, even more than expected. One of my professors mentioned that roughly three out of 40 students in his classes were out because of COVID.
Not only are students contracting COVID, but students are also contracting colds and general sicknesses at high rates. What has been dubbed "BC Bronchitis" (not actually bronchitis, but the alliteration is appreciated) has been spreading like wildfire through the BC population, particularly upperclassmen, as students start partying in large groups again.
This BC cold is inciting anxiety in students unmasked in the classroom. Hearing hacking to your right and nose-blowing to your left can be stressful in a time in which a simple cold could be not so simple. When you’re not sure whether your classmate is suffering from too much partying off-campus or the scary coronavirus, anxiety skyrockets and distracts from the material being taught in class.
COVID and the BC cold are reason enough to want to wear a mask in the classroom. Although most of the population is vaccinated, the people who are not are operating strictly under honor code to wear a mask in the classroom. Amid fear of the Delta variant, professors would feel more comfortable wearing masks in the classroom. There is little known about Delta, except for the fact that vaccinated people are still contracting it. BC professors claim that “According to the CDC, certain vaccinated people remain at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19...Many BC faculty and staff, and members of their families, fall in this category. A mask mandate will prioritize their protection.” Other reasons for requesting the mask mandate include having unvaccinated children at home, the fact that some BC students go off-campus and interact with unvaccinated individuals, professors may have to reassess if they feel comfortable teaching, BC’s campus is open to the public, and that without a mask mandate there is unnecessary pressure on the professor-student relationship. All of these reasons are completely valid, objective, and reasonable. The letter was even signed by 378 professors.
Despite the sound reasoning behind this request, students are aggressively against the mask mandate. On the popular student app Herrd, students are constantly making ignorant and borderline hateful comments surrounding the potential mask mandate. Comments center around the theme that students would rather get the “BC throat tickle” than wear a mask, or that they’re already vaccinated, so what more could BC possibly want? This rhetoric surrounding wearing a mask is selfish and disrespectful. We all suffered last year through the smell of breath and mask acne and would rather not wear masks again, but there is a point at which we must respect the desires of the professors who come in and teach us everyday. Frankly, wearing a mask just isn’t that hard. So what if we have to mask up for 50 or 75 minutes a few times a day?
Respecting the comfortability of others has been the key to survival during this entire pandemic, so why stop now? We shouldn’t. Just because BC has a confusing policy right now surrounding masking, which is technically required in dining halls and other public areas on campus (a rule which is rarely enforced), doesn’t mean we can’t throw a mask on to make our professors happy. Boston College doesn’t do anything beyond what the law requires, so it is up to us to do the right thing and wear masks when our professors technically aren’t allowed to enforce them. Moral of the story: just wear your mask—it is not that hard.