Starting March 2, masks will no longer be required in classrooms, dining facilities or residence halls. Collegian file photo.
ALISON MICCOLIS | NEWS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
After wearing masks for three full semesters, Butler sent an email on Feb. 26 announcing face masks will be optional on campus starting Wednesday, March 2. Masks will no longer be required in academic buildings, residence halls or dining facilities, however, individual professors may require masks in their classrooms.
Junior international studies major Renee Fezatte said she was surprised the announcement came out when it did.
“It seems a little bit hasty to me,” Fezatte said. “I was kind of expecting them to wait until after spring break, maybe two weeks after spring break, just to make sure people who do travel are not sick. I understand why the school wants to return to normalcy, but I do think it’s important to find balance.”
On Feb. 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modified their masking recommendation for indoor spaces, which included schools. The CDC no longer recommends requiring masks for schools in communities with low to medium COVID-19 community levels.
Community levels are a metric the CDC is using to help counties decide what preventative measures they should take to stop the spread of COVID-19. According to the CDC website, levels are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area. Marion County’s community level is currently medium.
Evan Blom, a sophomore mathematics and actuarial science double major, said he was not totally surprised by the announcement. Blom said he has one professor who is not requiring masks and one who is going to send out a survey to see what students would be most comfortable with.
“It will be interesting to see what professors still want to enforce and if students will be willing to comply after other classes and spaces not needing them,” Blom said.
In the email, Butler said the decision was made given the current state of COVID-19 on campus, Butler’s high campus vaccination rate and no new, concerning variants on the horizon according to their experts. When the COVID-19 dashboard was last updated on Feb. 25, Butler had four active positive cases amongst students and employees.
Brent Rockwood, vice president, chief of staff, said the decision to lift the mandate on March 2 was to provide students, faculty and staff with a few days to prepare after the announcement was sent out.
Fezatte said so far, her professors have made their classrooms mask optional, but they encouraged students to reach out if they had any concerns.
Some students are having a hard time making the decision whether to continue wearing their mask or come to class without it. Fezatte said a student in her class was worried about what people would think if they chose not to wear theirs.
“One of my classmates made a comment that I thought was really interesting,” Fezatte said. “They said that they don’t want to wear their mask anymore, but they don’t want it to come across like they don’t care about others. I think since it has been so politicized it is hard to separate somebody who is trying to be responsible and thoughtful to others and somebody who is completely anti-mask. It’s just hard to find that balance.”
On Feb. 28, Butler’s Writers’ Studio sent an email to students informing them masks would still be required in the studio for all tutors, clients and visitors. Writers’ Studio graduate assistant Sophie Salerno said the decision was made after surveying all of the tutors and finding that some were not comfortable going mask optional.
“I’m perfectly fine continuing the masks for a bit,” Salerno said. “Mostly I just want to make sure that other tutors are comfortable and that if we do move to no masks, it’s a comfortable, unanimous decision.”
The university’s decision came after other colleges in the area decided to modify their mask requirements. Indiana University announced on Feb. 18 they were lifting the mask mandate on all of their campuses starting March 4. Purdue University is still requiring masks in classrooms, research laboratories and instructional spaces on their West Lafayette campus, but has lifted the requirement for other indoor spaces.
Rockwood said at this time, there are no plans to reinstate the mask mandate after students travel for spring break.
Digital Managing Editor Francie Wilson contributed to this story.