It has been nearly two weeks since Fairfield University made the shift from an indoor mask mandate to an indoor mask recommendation, which began Feb. 28 as per CDC guidelines.
Varying opinions towards the removal of the mask mandate have arisen over the course of the past few weeks, with some feeling a renewed sense of normalcy and others, a sense of unease.
Several students are excited about the new mask recommendation, choosing to go maskless in areas around campus where allowed. Such areas include but are not limited to: the Daniel and Grace Tully Dining Commons, the Barone Campus Center and the Leslie C. Quick, Jr. Recreation Complex.
The overall consensus amid students appears to be in support of the switch to a mask recommendation by the University. Students are beginning to feel more connected to their peers in class, and feel as though a new chapter has begun, one that is rid of COVID-19.
“Students seem happy with the mask mandate,” says Carina Kortick ‘24. “It shows we are returning to normal, which is something we need to do.”
Similarly, some faculty members are embracing the removal of the mask mandate, recognizing its positive impacts in their classes.
Alfred Babo, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology and anthropology says, “As an anthropologist, seeing the faces of my students is satisfying.”
“Our faces and smiles humanize classroom interactions,” he says.
Further, with the removal of the mask mandate, some individuals have expressed that the classroom experience has become much easier for both professors and students alike.
Assistant Professor of Economics Helena Keefe, Ph.D., says, “Lecturing in a mask can be difficult and it has been a relief to teach without it.”
In accordance with this, Sam Flores ‘25 says, “It’s easier to talk in class and I can understand what the teacher is saying better.”
Many are finding the removal of the mask mandate to be beneficial in helping them learn and connect with peers and professors in the classroom. In addition, the University’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that the majority of people on campus are vaccinated and boosted, which has helped to lessen anxieties associated with the transition of being maskless. As of the end of the fall 2021 semester, 93.5% of Fairfield students and faculty were fully vaccinated, according to the dashboard.
Sophomore student Thomas Lane is not phased at all by the transition.
“I feel the same,” says Lane, “People were barely wearing masks outside of the classrooms to begin with, before the mandate was ever lifted.”
Not all members of the University feel ready to go maskless, however, as feelings of unease and fear set in. Some students, specifically, cannot help but still feel nervous throughout the transition.
“It’s kind of nostalgic, being able to look around and see everyone’s faces,” says Sara Rush ‘25, “but then at the same time it feels weird walking in without a mask on.”
Other students were in agreement with this statement.
“It feels very weird, like we’re back to normal – but we’re not,” says Nohea Breeden ‘25. Breeden continues to describe this time as “a new normal.”
Not all professors have chosen to embrace the mask recommendation either, as Lauren Trymbulak ‘25 states.
“Four of my classes still require masks,” Trymbulak says.
First-year student Jennifer Fajardo similarly says, “Most of my classes still require masks, which I respect, but am not too happy about.”
Following this, not all students have chosen to attend class unmasked. Some students have chosen to remain masked in classes and common areas for their safety and the safety of others.
Junior Kafo Bagagnan explains the reasoning behind his choice to stay masked.
“I am relieved that it shows progress in terms that COVID-19 is not so serious anymore,” he says, “however, I am going to keep mine on because I want to keep myself safe, as well as keep my family safe.”
This seems to be a recurring theme across campus as a portion of students continue to wear masks around campus.
Although the removal of the mask mandate has generally been received by students as a good thing, concerns around other aspects of COVID-19 prevention have emerged. Doubts have arisen that the discontinuation of testing on campus is premature.
“It is great that [the mask mandate] has been lifted, but I believe that COVID testing should have continued for those who are not fully vaccinated since it easily spreads,” says Philomena Appiah ‘24.
Overall, Keefe says, “It is important that we respect the choices of others in our community, whether the individual has chosen to mask or unmask.”
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