On March 18, 2022, the University of the Incarnate Word finally allowed students and faculty to choose whether to wear a mask indoors on campus regardless of their vaccination status when the university updated its mask policy.
This updated policy gives students and faculty the ability to decide whether to wear their masks inside campus facilities. Some may see this as an issue because it could cause students to look down upon one another regarding their choice to wear or not wear a mask.
Dr. Trey Guinn, Associate Professor and the Director of Communication Arts, highly respects the university administration’s ability to navigate the situation regarding COVID-19 protocols said that “I really have a lot of utmost respect and appreciation for administrators who are navigating unknown waters and the university’s ability to take information, process it, synthesize it, and help be guided by information coming from medical professionals and experts. I really commend and applaud.” Guinn expresses his hopes for the university moving forward. “My greatest hope is sort-of how people treat and respect one another. So, for instance, if the person next to you is wearing a mask and you are not or vice versa, how do we respond to one another? Do we still see them as our brother and our sister? Or do we now start seeing like, ‘Well, I’m this way, and you’re that way’? You know, the way sort-of people can create partisan lines around things like politics and a person’s choice to wear a mask or not wear a mask should not create partisan type lines.” Guinn concludes, “…if we are going to be in a community where some people are, and some people aren’t, that people love each other all the same.” Respecting each other’s opinions, choices, and values is prevalent in today’s society, specifically concerning COVID-19.
Melanie Calimag Gonzalez, a Communication Arts student, concentrating in Media and Culture, expresses her thoughts on the updated mask policy. “I’m surprised that way more people took their masks off… I just hope that with this policy that COVID-19 cases don’t rise.” From the beginning of the pandemic until now, students and faculty were required to wear facial masks indoors in all campus facilities. Calimag Gonzalez says she feels a sense of nostalgia when seeing individuals not wearing masks. “It’s giving me nostalgia from before 2020 and a sense of normality that I had missed. I’m still wearing my mask because it doesn’t really bother me. I’m used to it.” Although Calimag Gonzalez will continue to wear her mask inside campus facilities, she does not want to impose on those who choose not to wear a mask. “Plus, I am still seeing people getting [COVID-19], so I don’t want to have it nor spread it. But I’m not going to fight or go off on anybody because it’s their own choice. I’m just going to respect it and continue doing what I think is good. Whether my peers wear their masks or not is their own opinion.” The sense of normalcy has been altered since the start of the pandemic, with publications with headlines reading “the new normal.” However, with this shift back to the “old normal,” students and faculty may have been feeling hesitant about their choice of whether to wear a mask.
Since the start of the pandemic, it has been unusual to see our classmates and faculty without masks. However, hopefully with the new mask policy in place, we can start respecting one another’s opinions and know that we can only control what we do, and we can’t control how someone will react to what we do.
Cover photo taken by Marisa Allen.