Photo Contribution by Nida Shanar
As of Feb. 16, Wilfrid Laurier University removed the mask mandate where everyone must wear a mask in instructional spaces like classrooms. The mandate has been effective since last winter term.
On Jan. 31, 2022, most Laurier courses were held in-person on both campuses. The mask requirement was held together with a mandatory vaccination status and was briefly removed on May 31, 2022 for spring and summer courses. It was put back in place at the beginning of fall 2023.
“I think we should have a mask mandate at the very least in classroom settings. I think it’s a mistake to end it and it’s not good public health policy,” said Todd Gordon, an associate professor of law and society.
“In general mask mandates in large congregate settings such as classrooms where there’s lots of people sitting in a confined space are good public health policy. I think the science shows it. I don’t know what the objective is. It seems arbitrary that they would end it now,” he said.
Gordon said it would be best to leave the mandate to ensure the wastewater signals continue to decline. Wastewater signals are the rate at which COVID is circulating through the population.
Gordon said it is common for people to not wear masks outside.
“I think the responsibility for this is actually at a higher level. It’s government, like the Ontario government, that has taken a very carefree, lackadaisical and I think irresponsible approach to public health around COVID-19,” said Gordon.
“For me at least, it’s not a huge deal in order to wear them if it’s to protect other people,” said Lindsey McCollum, a second-year law and society student.
“If they want to make sure that COVID is relatively eradicated from their school before removing it, I think that’s better than removing it without really thinking,” she said.
She stated that the mask mandate was not being enforced in most cases.
“Even I would tend to not when no one else was wearing them because what was the point? There’s no point in a mask mandate if it’s not being enforced. I would rather it be enforced or not enforced, especially in big classrooms.”
“When they first implemented the mask mandate, they were enforcing it a lot more,” said Shaylen Young, a fifth-year kinesiology student at Waterloo campus. “It varies from class to class, depending on the prof but most of the profs don’t enforce it too heavily.”
He said that removing the mask mandate after Reading Week gives a new start.
“In most of my classes, only half of them were wearing the mask anyway. I think they saw that,” he said. “Also, the fact that most other places had gotten rid of their mask mandates as well. Those two factors were probably the biggest.”
“For the school, the classes are their main priority. All students need access to the classes and there were probably some people who felt uncomfortable without the mask,” said Young.
“I enjoy being without a mask just for convenience but the moment it looks like there’s an uptake in COVID if it’s of any consequence to my students or myself, I’m putting a mask back on,” said Jason Robinson, an associate professor of Brantford foundations.
Robinson presently teaches five classes and around 500 students in in-person classes.
“There are functional drawbacks to wearing a mask as a lecturer,” he said, “But these are pretty easy to mitigate with modern technology.”
He said he understands and appreciates that Laurier is trying to have everyone’s best interests in mind.
“There’s nobody sitting behind the scenes laughing that they were able to get people to wear masks. I think they really do have the best intentions of all participants at heart.”
Robinson said that some faculty members have immunocompromised systems. He said they need to rely on the respect of their students to keep them safe.
“It’s wonderful to see students going out their way, they themselves are not high-risk to try to ensure the safety of others around them. It’s quite nice to see.”
“It’s important to remember that professors are not only your teachers, but they are workers on the campus. It is a workers’ healthy and safety issue,” said Gordon.
Laurier was one of five remaining universities where masks were still necessary. On the Waterloo campus, Kamil Bachouchi went viral for wearing unconventional items like leaves of lettuce in place of a mask.