Students express mixed opinions on removal of mask mandate


Gabe Bider/The Daily Northwestern

With Northwestern lifting its mask mandate, some students worry that cases will increase while others are relieved.

Caroline Brew, Assistant Campus Editor

When Northwestern lifted its indoor mask requirement on Feb. 28, Weinberg sophomore Chloe Porter said she saw many people’s faces for the first time in Norris University Center. 

“No masks in Norris shocked me because it implicates so many people,” Porter said. “I definitely don’t see this being a good thing for the most vulnerable members of the community.”

While masks will still be required in classrooms and other instructional spaces through at least the end of Winter Quarter, masking will be optional in most public spaces, including athletic facilities, residence halls, libraries and Norris. This new guidance comes after Illinois and Evanston ended their indoor masking requirements.

Porter said she expected the University to lift its mask mandate eventually because many state and local governments have done so, but she thought the University would wait until the start of Spring Quarter.

Porter said she will keep her mask on but worries other students won’t, especially after hearing about students choosing not to get tested for COVID-19 because they want to attend parties and avoid missing classes if they test positive.

“Masks were the only layer of protection left, but now that’s gone,” Porter said. “I don’t necessarily trust people to make the right decisions.” 

Weinberg sophomore Henry McMenimen said as someone who was formerly immunocompromised, they believe the University is “playing with their lives.”

McMenimen added that because University policy requires some immunocompromised students to live on campus, optional masking in residential halls endangers students.

“I don’t know where these students are supposed to live if they’re supposed to live on campus for the first two years of college,” McMenimen said. “How are they supposed to go to the bathroom — what’s going on here?”

In addition to putting immunocompromised people on campus at risk, McMenimen also said the University is being inconsiderate toward those who visit home and have high-risk family members.

McMenimen said even if the University is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they wished the University more clearly communicated the reasons for lifting the mandate in the Feb. 24 email sent to students.

“I really don’t know their motives behind this decision,” McMenimen said. “Is it because students complained? Maybe, but again, students are complaining now that they lifted the mask mandate.”

However, McCormick sophomore Carlos Vasquez said he finds the University’s decision liberating. 

As an English as a second language speaker, Vasquez said wearing a mask makes it harder for others to understand him and for him to understand others.

“I cannot read people’s lips and things like that, which is definitely going to be solved without a mask,” Vasquez said. “I’m definitely going to be more productive without it.”

Vasquez said he hopes the University will lift its masking requirements in classes during Spring Quarter, as he has a difficult time understanding professors who are wearing masks.

He added NU’s timing for lifting the mandate made sense because it is in line with Illinois and Evanston guidance and because the University requires students to be fully-vaccinated and receive a booster.

“I will totally respect every single person who keeps wearing masks, as I hope they will respect my decision to not wear one,” he said.

Porter said because the University is following CDC guidelines, she understands why they did not account for student opinions. 

However, Porter suggested going forward, the University should hold discussions in a town hall format to incorporate student opinions into its COVID-19 policies.

“Ideally, there would be more student involvement in making decisions, especially when it comes to tracking COVID cases and testing,” Porter said. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @CarolineLBrew

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