First-year law student Antonia Chircop says many of her professors have given up trying to enforce Dalhousie’s mask mandate.
Chircop said that professors ask students to put on one when they notice them without masks in class.
“There are always at least two or three people in every one of my classes that just don’t wear a mask,” she said.
“If the majority of your class is wearing masks, I think it’s disrespectful to everybody in there to not wear one,” she said.
Dalhousie University announced last week that it’s extending the fall masking policy into the winter semester. Masks are also required for exams in December.
The policy says masks are mandatory in all indoor teaching spaces during scheduled teaching hours and are strongly encouraged everywhere else.
Dalhousie Student Union president Aparna Mohan said continuing to have masking mandatory is a reassuring decision.
Mohan said it’s sorely needed as the flu season is coming, along with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since all remaining COVID-19 restrictions in the community have now been lifted in Nova Scotia, mask requirements at Dalhousie led to debate on social media, where students say the policy is not being enforced.
Dalhousie didn’t respond to questions about who is responsible for enforcing the mask policy.
But according to Dalhousie’s masking policy, students without a mask can be asked to leave class.
The policy also says faculty, staff and students should address non-compliance “with conversation and education,” including “assisting students or colleagues in managing disagreements about COVID-related protocols.”
“Unfortunately, it is not being enforced on a university-wide level,” Mohan said.
She thinks the mask policy empowers instructors to invoke it and enforce it within their respective lecture halls.
“But that may not always be happening,” she said. “I actually have not thus far heard about any situations where instructors have asked students to leave the classroom for not wearing masks.”
Mohan feels it’s not all falling on instructors or professors. Asking students to leave can be difficult because not all of them want to wear masks and that leads to awkward conversations.
“You can’t expect professors to be the masking police,” said Chircop.
“But at the end of the day like I don’t know if it’s more appropriate for us students to call them out or the prof to call them out,” she said.
Chircop said the possible solution is professors reporting a consistent non-masker to the dean because somebody should address it.
Julia M. Wright, professor and George Munro chair in literature and rhetoric, said that she carries masks with her so that students without a mask can get one.
Before COVID-19, professors always paying attention to classroom safety is rare except in chemistry classrooms. But she thinks it is her responsibility to do so.
“Don’t mix those two chemicals together, they’ll explode. Put your mask back on or you might get sick. I see those both as safety measures,” she said.
Wright asks her students to put masks on in class “to make the classroom a little safer.”
Mount Saint Vincent University and St. Francis Xavier University have also extended their masks policies into the winter term. In an email, Cindy MacKenzie, spokesperson for St. F.X., said, “Ensuring compliance would be up to the instructor.”
An Acadia University spokesperson said the university is reviewing its mask mandate and will advise its campus community about winter term plans very soon.
Chircop said that almost everyone she talked to is annoyed when there is always someone not wearing a mask, but no one will say anything when they notice it’s happening.
“Nobody likes it. But nobody really has the balls to say anything,” she said.
Mohan encouraged all to have the spine to call on fellow students to wear masks.
“Everyone’s going to say it’s somebody else or at some other institution or some other body,” she said. “But really, I think the answer is everybody is responsible.”
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Gia (she/her) comes from China. She is a journalism student at the University of King's College with a Bachelor degree of Arts in Culture and...