Mixed reactions among students and faculty to updated COVID-19 protocols

Like+colleges+throughout+the+country%2C+Lafayette+mandates+that+all+students%2C+even+those+vaccinated+against+COVID-19%2C+must+wear+masks+in+non-residential+buildings.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Caroline+Burns+22%29

Like colleges throughout the country, Lafayette mandates that all students, even those vaccinated against COVID-19, must wear masks in non-residential buildings. (Photo courtesy of Caroline Burns ’22)

Emma Chen

After a spring semester marked by room capacity limits and dining hall restrictions, students have returned to campus with only one pandemic-related requirement: wearing masks inside academic buildings and public spaces.

While the college’s vaccine mandate accelerated a return to normalcy—the majority of the classes are now in-person and all students have returned to campus—the rise of the Delta variant and concerns about the wider Easton community has prevented a typical pre-COVID-19 semester. 

Currently, weekly testing is required for those who opted out of the vaccination for personal or medical reasons, and events like office hours and a small handful of classes are held virtually.

“I didn’t expect to be wearing a mask this year, so to say I’m disappointed I think is fair. However, I understand the reasons behind why they ask us to wear them,” Jay Ascher ‘22 said.

Similarly, Laura Pailas ‘24 wrote in an email that she believed that the recent spike in cases made the mask requirement reasonable, but “it disappointing to have to start off the year wearing masks.”

Others said that the college’s protocols were less severe than anticipated.

“I was thinking masks [would be required] in the dorms and I didn’t know how dining halls were going to work. So, I guess this is a little bit more normal than I was expecting,” Erin Caputo ‘25 said.

“I agree with the vaccine mandate and believe it is necessary to push people to receive the vaccine in order to return to normalcy,” Pailas wrote. “The mask mandate seems reasonable for now, especially since we just returned to campus. However, I believe that Lafayette should lift the mask mandate if there is no presence of COVID in the first two weeks of school.”

While 96.4 percent of the student body is vaccinated, some students expect masks to remain a facet of campus life for the foreseeable future so the campus community remains safe. While data about positive cases on campus is unavailable, the number of COVID-19 cases among people under 20 in Pennsylvania increased by nearly 14,000 from June 24 to Aug. 26, according to The Morning Call. The College anticipates that the masking requirement will remain in place until two weeks after Northampton County drops below substantial transmission.

“I have friends that go to other schools that are having big outbreaks right now, so I do feel lucky that most of the people here are vaccinated and that masks are required in most places, even though it is a pain,” Caputo said.

“I think the masking is reasonable because just because you’re vaccinated doesn’t mean you can’t get those breakthrough cases. And I think it’s especially important that the faculty are feeling safe because [students] go out and do whatever we want, but they go home to their families. It’s really just for all our benefits, even though I’m sure nobody enjoys it, it’s still beneficial,” Ascher said.

On the other hand, students like Lily Dineen ‘24 believed that measures beyond the mask mandate could be taken. She noted that many people are still in close proximity to one another, which does not feel safe to her. 

“I think that the mask wearing policies are reasonable, but that now seems to be the only effort in preventing COVID on campus. After my first day of class I observed that students were sitting very close to each other,” Dineen wrote in an email.

Professors are also readjusting to in-person classes. As a result of the COVID-19 guidelines, some faculty have brought their classrooms outside so neither them nor the students need to wear masks. 

“I do like the idea of teaching outside, because I’ve definitely found that masking has created more of a struggle to breath while talking than I expected,” Government & Law Professor Joshua Miller said.  

Miller added that some sort of outdoor modification such as a tent could be helpful, so that students and professors can be both unmasked and protected from the sun, allowing for more outdoor class sessions that are comfortable and safe.

Regardless of the challenges and discomforts, it is evident that the campus population is happy to be back on campus and thankful that the protocols have loosened from last semester. Looking ahead, many are hopeful for less masking, but realize that it may not be a feasible option.

“I think that Lafayette is in the right for being cautious despite vaccinations; this last year or so has consisted of many unexpected case spikes and it is better to be cautious at the start of the semester,” Pailas wrote. “Assuming our campus is safe and COVID cases are nearly or…nonexistent on campus in a little, I hope that Lafayette can lift the mask mandate and let us return to a truly normal semester.”