On Sept. 3, University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A, Ph.D., sent out an email to all Villanovans with an amendment to the masking policies on campus. At the beginning of the semester, individuals who were vaccinated were not required to wear masks in indoor spaces, unless specified by a professor. Now, all members of the University community, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, are required to wear masks in all indoor, public spaces, which includes all the fitness centers on campus. The only spaces excluded from this policy are residence halls.
Additionally, to help deal with the rise in new cases on campus, all members of the community will participate in surveillance testing, even if they are vaccinated. This testing began on Sept. 8.
Rebekah Turner, a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering and French, is a Resident Assistant in Moulden Hall. Although she is not surprised that the University changed its masking policies, she is supportive of the efforts taken to protect student health and agrees about the importance of wearing masks during this time.
“It’s a little annoying at times, but I would rather that than having a bunch of people getting sick when they could have otherwise prevented it by everyone wearing a mask,” Turner said.
As a senior, Turner has had one and a half years of normalcy, but despite the disruption of COVID-19 and the policies put into place, she has been able to look on the positive side.
“Previously, [The University] didn’t have all of the outdoor programming, like food trucks on Friday and Oktoberfest, so [COVID-19] has made the campus more creative in its programming for events,” Turner said. “You are more aware of the fact that things are going on, and there’s more of a push to get out there.”
Christiana Holguin, a senior majoring in Psychology and Sociology, is the Head Resident Assistant for Corr and Alumni Hall, so she expressed similar views to Turner. She also supported the changes that were made to the masking policies.
“It’s good that they implemented it because you can still transmit the virus to people who are vaccinated,” Holguin said. “I know a lot of my professors have mentioned they have small kids at home who can’t be vaccinated. I think it’s better to be cautious.”
Holguin remains optimistic about the situation at hand, feeling lucky for all the experiences she has had at the University thus far.
“Having online classes was definitely strange, but it felt like a temporary blip rather than ruining my college experience,” Holguin said. “Now, everything to me feels like we are essentially back to normal, even with the mask mandate because we have in person classes pretty much all the time.”
As RAs, both Turner and Holguin mentioned their concern about their residents and wanting to keep students safe.
“I think in general, RAs have a different perspective on policy,” Holguin said. “I like having the backing to be able to enforce the mask policy, it’s important. It’s not just me telling you, it’s the whole institution and I happen to agree with it.”
Additionally, both wanted to reiterate the importance of being considerate of others and enjoying yourself in ways that help protect the community, especially for seniors like Turner and Holguin who are looking forward to all the activities that are typical of one’s final year at the University.
“I would like to stay, I think everyone would like to stay, and one of the ways we can try to do that is by staying safe by wearing a mask,” Turner said.
The amendments to the mask update also affect the experiences of professors at the University. Adrienne Perry, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English, also recognizes the importance of the update to masking policies and understands the student perspective.
“I’ve wondered if for students it was tricky to navigate the different sets of expectations in all their classes,” Perry said. “It’s another piece for students to keep up with. People just want clarity and transparency and to know in advance what the administration is doing and why.”
Perry notes how “the reality of COVID-19 is its moving, the situation is always changing,” which can heighten levels of anxiety for all community members, so it’s important to have one clear policy so people don’t have to worry about what they should be doing. The mask update also makes her feel safer coming to campus, though she did not feel unsafe before and has had practice teaching in person with masks last year.
Turner, Holguin and Perry all noted that most students are wearing their masks in classrooms and hallways, balanced with not having to wear them outside. There is still room for improvement in some public spaces, but overall, Villanovans seem to be abiding by the new policies.
It’s easy to gloss over the importance of wearing masks after having a taste of normalcy, but to keep each other safe and have a somewhat normal semester, Villanovans need to do their best in adhering to the University’s policies and, once again, put the community first.
As Perry wisely mentioned, we all need to ask ourselves: “What do I feel like I need to do to take care of myself right now? What do I need to do to be mindful of the community?”